Background and History
FLOC Reynolds Tobacco Campaign
R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company is the second-largest tobacco company in the United States, manufacturing about one of every three cigarettes sold in the country. In 2006 Reynolds American Inc. had sales in excess of $8.5 billion worldwide. While big tobacco makes billions, tobacco farmworkers live in poverty, face racism and harassment, nicotine poisoning, lethal pesticides, staggering deft, and have hardly any labor and human rights protections.
The tragedies which occur daily in the fields are due to industry-wide problems that need to be addressed by those who have control over the tobacco market— RJ Reynolds being at the top of this list. The Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) is calling on RJ Reynolds to take responsibility for the oppressive conditions in which tobacco workers labor in North Carolina. Together with FLOC, RJ Reynolds can use its tremendous power to initiate changes that will improve the lives of growers and farm workers alike.
Despite several attempts by FLOC President Baldemar Velazquez and allies, Susan Ivey, CEO of RJ Reynolds, has refused to meet with him to discuss conditions for farmworkers in North Carolina’s tobacco fields.
GREEN TOBACCO SICKNESS:
Green tobacco sickness, commonly called “the green monster”, is simply nicotine poisoning. Tobacco workers come into daily contact with nicotine which is absorbed into their bodies as they pick the tobacco leaves. Nicotine is classified as one of the most toxic poisons resulting in weakness, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, abdominal cramps, headache and difficulty breathing. Worse yet, it raises body temperature which increases dehydration an sickness from the intense
heat of the fields. An estimated 24% of workers have this illness each season, and workers average almost 2 days of illness for every 100 of work. Workers who complain of sickness have been sent home to Mexico.