On May 6th, NFWM, FLOC, farm workers and other allies gathered in Winston Salem, NC for a day of actions during the annual shareholders meeting of Reynolds Tobacco (RAI). We were there to tell Reynolds’ management and shareholders that farm workers are stakeholders too!
The day began with a brief prayer service outside of Reynolds led by Kevin Todd, Duke Divinity Field Education Intern at NFWM NC. Together, they read the Litany, “Give us hope in a new day in which all women and men will know justice, peace, equality, and love; A new day when we will no longer need to gather to STRUGGLE for justice but will gather to CELEBRATE justice.”
A group of forty FLOC members and supporters attended Reynolds Annual Shareholders Meeting. They spoke out in support of farmworkers and reminded Reynolds decision-makers that farmworkers are the backbone of the tobacco industry. Reynolds was prepared to stifle any dissent. Ray Rogers spoke first and was told by Reynolds CEO, Susan Ivey that it was not the appropriate time for him to speak. When he persisted, he was physically ejected from the meeting and arrested by off-duty Winston-Salem police officers. Read more about Ray’s story and Reynolds Tobacco Campaign in the YES! Weekly Article “From the Tobacco Fields to the Board Room.” But the farmworkers and supporters didn’t relent!
Time and again throughout the meeting, points were raised about farmworkers’ struggles and Reynolds responsibility to them. Shareholders voted on a resolution about Workplace & Human Rights. The Resolution received a significant 13% of the vote. As Virginia Nesmith, NFWM Executive Director, seconded the resolution, the forty stood and held up the names of a farmworkers who were unable to be at the meeting to speak out because they were working in the fields that day.
Meanwhile, throughout downtown Winston-Salem, supporters lined the streets and passed out Leaflets about the campaign. Afterward, nearly 200 people came together and marched to the beat of Cakalak Thunder through Winston-Salem, past the RJ Reynolds Building to rally at Lloyd Presbyterian Church, who’s members have historically fought for civil rights and continue until today.
Thanks to all who attended and showed support in other ways! We will continue to struggle alongside farmworkers until justice is realized.
Hasta la Victoria!