A Letter to Susan Ivey, Reynolds American Inc.
Ms. Susan Ivey
Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer
Reynolds American Inc.
Winston Salem, NC
Dear Ms. Ivey,
We are writing as members of the United Church of Christ who believe that all people, regardless of race, creed, country of origin, sexual orientation, or profession are loved equally by God and deserve to be treated with justice and respect.
We are writing now out of particular concern for the treatment of the farm workers who harvest tobacco for RJ Reynolds throughout the Southeast. In addition to the abuses suffered by all farm workers, such as low pay, long hours of work in the hot sun, inadequate housing and lack of access to medical care, tobacco workers face significant additional problems related to the toxins present in the tobacco plant and that tragically, several workers have even died in North Carolina’s fields in recent years.
We understand that the tobacco pickers are not directly employed by RJ Reynolds, but as the company in control of the pricing and procurement process involving many growers there, you are the party most able to effect change. We believe that the most effective way to improve the conditions endured by the tobacco pickers is for those workers to have a voice in the industry they sustain, through representation by a union. It is the only way for them to address abuses without fear of firing or other reprisals, and more importantly, it creates a dialogue process for all parties in the industry that helps to prevent those abuses in the first place.
The Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) has a track record of negotiating landmark labor agreements in the agribusiness industry, both in the Midwest and North Carolina, and already represents thousands of workers there. We urge you to meet and work with FLOC to address the concerns of tobacco workers and to create a process with them which recognizes the inherent dignity and rights of those workers, to the mutual benefit of those involved in the tobacco industry at all levels.
We will be following the progress of FLOC’s efforts and hope to hear of a just resolution to this issue, and an end to the tragedies suffered in the fields.