Dear Colleagues and Friends of Farm Workers,
Farm workers in North Carolina, and their families in Mexico who depend on them, need your solidarity. Please read and sign-on to the attached letter by Thursday, April 20th and let Big Tobacco know that we want retaliation against farm workers who stand up for their rights to STOP.
In 2015, 8 Mexican workers on a NC farm that supplies tobacco leaf to Alliance One International, were blacklisted (barred from future employment) by the Farm Labor Contractor (FLC) who brought them to the farm on guestworker visas. The farm owner was refusing to pay the farm workers’ fairly earned wages. When, as a group, they complained, the FLC blacklisted them.
The Alliance One Agricultural Labor Practices (ALP) Code requires that all Alliance One contract growers adhere to the Principle of Freedom of Association and collective bargaining. Farm workers are not protected by US federal labor law if they seek to exercise their internationally recognized human right to freedom of association. However, they would be protected from retaliation on farms covered by the Alliance One ALP IF Alliance One actually implemented freedom of association on their contract farms. The case of these 8 black listed farm workers illustrates the weakness of the Alliance One ALP.
Alliance One has the ethical and moral responsibility to make certain these farm workers rights are upheld.
Attached is the letter: “A Call by North Carolina Faith Leaders to Alliance One President Pieter Sikkel: Ensure that the Eight FLOC Members are Removed from Farm Labor Contractor Jr Perez’s Black List.” The letter also calls on Mr. Sikkel to take the right steps forward and enter into good faith negotiations with FLOC to implement Alliance One’s Agriculture Labor Practices so unjust blacklisting of workers doesn’t happen again.
We will deliver the letter with your sign-on to Mr. Sikkel the last week of April. Alliance One, headquartered in Morrisville, NC, is a leading leaf tobacco merchant serving the world’s largest cigarette manufacturers. Alliance One has the power to affect change all along its supply chain.
These workers depend on doing farm labor in the US to support their families on the wages they earn working the fields of North Carolina. Blacklisting limits their employment opportunities and devastates families. Blacklisting sows fear among other workers who see that the growers and the labor contractors are getting away with retaliation.
“Please, read the attached letter and sign-on TODAY, and no later than April 20th.
TO SIGN-ON: Send the information below to NCFaithLettertoAllianceOne@nfwm.org
Church or Organization
Organizations listed for identification purposes only.
TEXT of Letter:
April 20, 2017
Mr. J. Pieter Sikkel, President and Chief Executive Officer
Alliance One International, Inc.
8001 Arial Center Parkway
Morrisville, NC 27560
Dear Mr. Sikkel,
We are religious leaders from many different faith traditions in North Carolina who share a common belief that all people, regardless of race, creed, country of origin or walk of life, are loved equally by God and deserve to be treated with justice and respect. In this regard, the social teachings of our faith groups affirm the moral right of farm workers to freedom of association and to bargain collectively without fear of retaliation.
We are writing you out of particular concern for the continued blacklisting of eight tobacco farm workers in the Alliance One supply chain. These men are all members of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) from rural Mexico. Cristian Raul Jaramillo Avalos, Saul Avalos Blanco, Cristobal Vazquez Chavarria, Jacobo Medrano Espinoza, Cesar Alejandro Sanchez Espinosa, Gustavo Medrano Avalos, Arturo Medrano Avalos, and Hernan Maimiliano Medrano Avalos are all being refused employment by Farm Labor Contractor Jr. Perez in retaliation for exercising their right to freedom of association.
In 2015 these eight FLOC members sought to obtain their fairly earned wages which were being withheld by the grower, Hudson Farms. For their action, they were retaliated against by Farm Labor Contractor Jr. Perez, who continues to deny them employment. These workers depend on doing farm labor in the US to support their families on the wages they earn working the fields of North Carolina. Blacklisting limits their employment opportunities and devastates families. Further, blacklisting sows fear among other workers who see that the growers and the labor contractors are getting away with retaliation.
We understand that the Alliance One Agricultural Labor Practices (ALP) Code requires that Alliance One leaf suppliers adhere to the Principle of Freedom of Association and collective bargaining. This is the case whether the workers are employed directly by the grower or through a farm labor contractor. However, the case of the eight blacklisted workers is evidence that your ALP is not working.
In order to effectively address on-going grievances in an atmosphere of mutual cooperation, we call on Alliance One to work with the Farm Labor Organizing Committee to create practical mechanisms to guarantee freedom of association. To accomplish that, we call on Alliance One to provide FLOC with grower contact information now confidential so that FLOC can determine if a grower is covered by the Alliance One ALP when workers bring forward problems, as the eight workers did.
Further, we call on Alliance One to require that Farm Labor Contractor Jr. Perez remove these eight FLOC members from his blacklist and give each of them a date of hire for the 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, and the 2021 growing seasons in North Carolina. Moreover, we call on Alliance One to require that Jr. Perez implement freedom of association and collective bargaining when contracting with growers covered by the Alliance One ALP.
It is in Alliance One’s power to take these steps so that unjust blacklisting, as well as other labor abuses, in your supply chain does not happen again. We ask you to do what is right.
Faithfully, [Signature Page Attached]