FLOC and allies March on Reynolds Shareholders Meeting and Demand the Company do More Than Talk
Farmworkers and their supporters turned out in full force on May 9 at the Reynolds American 2013 Shareholders Meeting. At one of the largest and most energetic events since the beginning of the campaign, over 300 people including labor, clergy, students, and community allies rallied and marched through the city calling on Reynolds to do more than just talk with FLOC.
At a rally following the march, speakers pledged continued solidarity and support until the campaign is won. “When clergy, students, and workers get together like we have today, we are a powerful force, and we bring a powerful message…shame on Reynolds!” said MaryBe McMillan, Secretary Treasurer of the NC AFL-CIO. “If they want to lay claim to the profits that come from farmworkers’ labor, then they need to claim responsibility for labor conditions.”
Representatives of the Beloved Community Center, the Youth and Young Adult Network of the National Farm Worker Ministry, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, and FLOC organizer and former farmworker Raul Jimenez also spoke at the rally.
Over 40 allies went inside the meeting that morning, armed with points of order and questions to keep the meeting’s focus on farmworker issues. Reynolds executives were clearly rattled by the large presence and persistent questions, and fumbled over important questions such as how they planned to ensure that human trafficking did not exist in their supply chain. In an interview with the Winston Salem Journal following the meeting, Reynolds said they were taking steps to improve conditions on farms, including participating in multi-lateral talks with a variety of stakeholders, talking directly with FLOC, and partnering with Telamon, an agency which provides grants to farmers to improve migrant housing.
Talk is cheap, we want justice!
These steps are a significant improvement from a time just a few years ago, when Reynolds refused to talk with FLOC and refused to acknowledge that problems existed on their farms. But with talks now underway, farmworkers and allies are pressing Reynolds to take meaningful action to ensure that all farmworkers have safe and healthy working conditions, fair pay, and a voice on the job.
Earlier this year, FLOC President Baldemar Velasquez provided Reynolds with a proposal that would end human trafficking in their supply chain, end the squalor in labor camps, and end the fear that keeps workers from speaking out against abusive conditions. Reynolds has yet to respond to the proposal.
It’s time for Reynolds to respond to FLOC’s proposal, and sign an agreement that would guarantee the right to freedom of association to all farmworkers in their supply chain.
Many thanks to all those who joined us on May 9! Hasta la Victoria!