Tobacco Farm Worker Concerns Shared at Pantry Inc Meeting

Farm Worker Supporters Call on Couche-Tard, Inc to Uphold Its Corporate Responsibility Statement

pantry3-10-15A determined crew of FLOC supporters from the Triangle Friends of Farmworkers, the National Farm Worker Ministry, Student Action with Farmworkers and FLOC attended the March 10th special shareholders meeting of Pantry Inc, parent company of Kangaroo Express. Tobacco products account for 39% of Kangaroo Express sales. There exist widespread violations of the human rights of farm workers in the production of tobacco, including dilapidated housing, sub-minimum wages, work-related illness, and fear of retaliation for speaking out.

For more than four years, we have attended these Pantry meetings, written letters to management, rallied outside their convenience stores and delivered letters to managers urging Pantry to take an active role in eliminating the abuses in the supply chain of the tobacco products from which Pantry makes substantial profit.

Pantry, Inc management has not adequately addressed these issues with North Carolina’s largest tobacco manufacturer, Reynolds American – as we have urged them to do.

But soon there will be no Pantry, Inc. The meeting on the 10th was to approve the sale of the company to Canadian based Alimentation Couche-Tard (Circle-K). Couche-Tard’s social responsibility policy states:   “Our most important corporate responsibility is to provide our products and services in a socially, environmentally and ethically responsible way.”   The current exploitation of tobacco farm workers meets no definition of “socially …and ethically responsible.”

We hoped to meet with Couche-Tard representatives at the Pantry meeting, but were told none were there. But we were there. And we are not going away!

Our message to the new owners, Couche-Tard, is this. Once you control the thousands of Kangaroo convenience stores which sell millions of tobacco products, step up and take responsibility for what is happening in your supply chain.

  • Couche-Tard — meet with us so we can work together to align the treatment of tobacco farm workers with Couche-Tard social responsibility goals.
  • Couche-Tard — visit labor camps with FLOC and talk with workers so you know firsthand what is at stake.
  • Couche-Tard — follow your own corporate responsibility statement and urge Reynolds American to sign an agreement with the Farm Labor Organizing Committee guaranteeing freedom of association and collective bargaining for farm workers.

You have a great opportunity to do the right thing – seize it!

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