Until Reynolds American Inc negotiates and signs an agreement with the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) guaranteeing farm workers in its supply chain a voice in the workplace – we will not stop boycotting Reynolds e-cigarette VUSE. AND until Circle K takes VUSE off its shelves – we will not stop picketing their stores and calling their offices and calling on them to honor the boycott.
More than 40 FLOC supporters gathered at the Circle K Coastal Carolinas regional office in Raleigh, NC on Thursday, March 28th. FLOC, National Farm Worker Ministry, Triangle Friends of Farmworkers (TFF), North Carolina Church Women United, Student Action with Farmworkers, North Carolina State AFL-CIO, NAACP Chapel Hill/Carrboro Branch and other NC based organizations and churches came out.
We formed a human billboard along the sidewalk in front of the building, including a creative “sit in.” The Raging Grannies composed and sang a couple of VUSE boycott and Circle K songs. We chanted and we waved signs and we pulled out our cell phones and called various Circle K executives.
But what we really came to do was meet with Circle K regional decision-makers. For a year now, we have asked Circle K management to honor the boycott and take VUSE off their shelves. We have written, called and visited their stores and picketed – all without any response from the Circle K management.
So on this day, a delegation including FLOC Organizer Leticia Zavala, FLOC member and farm worker Yolanda Sanchez, NC AFL-CIO President MaryBe McMillan, NC Church Women United President Emily Sprague, Triangle Friends of Farmworkers Communication Coordinator Dave Austin, and NFWM’s Associate Director Susan Alan walked into the Circle K office building to ask for a meeting in person.
We did not get far. The receptionist’s office door was locked and knocking didn’t get us in. Even when, after about 10 minutes, someone from HR came to talk to us, he wouldn’t let us through the door. He was not interested in hearing about the exploitation of tobacco farm workers in Circle K’s supply chain. We asked to meet with Coastal Carolinas’ Vice-President Operations or Region Director of Operations or Category Manager for Tobacco. We were told none would meet with us. We were told the only person for us to contact would be the North America Director of Global Communications, Alimentation Couche-Tard. Couche-Tard is the parent company of Circle K.
We will call the Director of Global Communications. We will continue to try to get a meeting with decision-makers. BUT REALLY! This is NOT a publicity issue. This is a JUSTICE issue that reflects badly on Circle K, as it has for years on Reynolds American. Because exploitation in your supply chain is wrong. And refusing to own up to your corporate responsibility is wrong.
Here is the bottom line. If Circle K wants us to go away, then Circle K take VUSE away. If Reynolds American wants us to go away, then sign an agreement with FLOC.
To see more photos of the action taken by NFWM’s Duke Divinity School intern Eric Turner, visit our flickr page.