Report: Inhumane Treatment of Farmworkers in North Carolina

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A report released by Members of the British Parliament details the horrific conditions faced by many farmworkers in North Carolina. Among their findings were human rights violations including child labor by children as young as seven, substandard housing with no ventilation and bug infested mattresses, and exploitation of workers by having them work inhumane hours for very little pay. From NC Policy Watch's article on the report,

The report, A Smokescreen for Slavery: Human Rights Abuses in UK Supply Chain, exposes a horrific list of human rights violations including child labor by children as young as seven, substandard housing with no ventilation and bug infested mattresses, and exploitation of workers by having them work inhumane hours for very little pay. Other areas of concern identified by the report include a lack of access to clean drinking water for workers and a lack of protective clothing to prevent infection from pesticides and even from the tobacco plant itself. The report also explains that some of the inhumane living and working conditions are permitted by lax labor standards. For example, under North Carolina law, it is legal for thirty men to share two toilets with no dividers.

The main problem, as explained by the report, is that farmworkers are afraid to report these issues for fear of being fired or deported (since many are undocumented). The National Labor Relations Act, the only law that allows workers to unionize and make demands without fear of retaliation, does not include agriculture workers. The report concludes that until farmworkers are free to join and form trade unions, they won’t be able to speak out about the injustices they face.

The Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) invited Lavery and Sheridan to observe the inhumane conditions firsthand in an effort to get Reynolds American Inc. (Reynolds), a major purchaser of the tobacco produced in these fields, to end the human rights injustices in its supply chain. British American Tobacco (BAT), a UK based company, owns 42% of Reynolds. Based on the report shared yesterday, an Early Day Motion signed by thirty-four members of Parliament urged BAT to use its influence over Reynolds to reach an agreement with FLOC which would allow the workers to organize and demand humane living and working conditions.

“After seven years of farmworkers bringing these issues to the tobacco industry, we deeply appreciate the members of Parliament visiting with our membership in North Carolina and look forward to their broad publicity of the injustices that that they witnessed first hand,” said FLOC President Baldemar Velasquez. “We hope BAT and Reynolds will take this seriously and finally move to clean up their supply chains.”


  1. Liz's avatar
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    Our state labor laws are not only lax about farmers, but about workers in every profession. Employers can force woman to share a bathroom with men. Employers are not required to provide air conditioning during the summer or heat in the winter. Leaving warehouse workers to have to spend 8 hours a day in 100 degree heat and face cold temperatures in a state that can drop into the negatives. The state also allows workers to be fired without any reason or justification. You can go into work and find our self without a job, just because the boss or his friend doesn't like you. Workers in North Carolina are completely unprotected and there is nothing that we can do about it.
  2. David Gellatly's avatar
    David Gellatly
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    Make it personal; supply the names and addresses of the offending farmers. Shine a spotlight directly on the people responsible for this injustice.
  3. marilyn's avatar
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    uncalled for conditions for working in uncalled filthy conditions I say give them a clean motel and fit conditions like every one tired after a long days wrk. no slaves just dirty land lords and ck to see if they are being held to wrk, against their will the yr is 2014 really its uncalled for and u are doing with they do with out because u want.
  4. Robert D. Morris III's avatar
    Robert D. Morris III
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    One would have thought that voters would have learned something from the last election cycle in voting against their own best interests. But what did North Carolinians do? They vote further against everyone's best interests. What incredible stupidity.
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