supports fight of migrant tobacco workers
Kevin Milliken, La Prensa Correspondent
Photos by Kevin and Rico, La Prensa
TOLEDO, June 30, 2018: Drivers had to slow down to navigate
around orange barrels along Bancroft St. in Toledo Saturday
afternoon, so it was hard to miss the roughly 30 protestors
holding flags and yelling chants outside a 7-11 store.
The Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) held its
monthly protest, hoping to put pressure on RJ Reynolds to
recognize the harsh conditions migrant farmworkers continue to
face in the tobacco fields of North Carolina, South Carolina,
Kentucky, Tennessee, and elsewhere. Many of the protestors were
leaders of local organized labor and members of the FLOC
“We want to let them know that we are with them, because the
conditions that they are working in the fields and the inhumane
conditions on the property they live in, the huts, and also the
wages—oftentimes they’re being stolen from them,” said Ramón
Pérez, a FLOC organizer.
Efforts to improve those working and living conditions have
stretched back more than a decade now, according to Pérez, with
little movement on the part of RJ Reynolds top officials. The
tobacco company has yet to come to the negotiating table to
reach a collective bargaining deal.
“Ten years is way too long, so now we’re raising the pressure,”
said Pérez. “We’re picketing the 7-11 store and we’ll be
doing the same at Circle K in the near future.”
Both convenience store chains carry the
VUSE e-cigarette brand,
which is made and sold by RJ Reynolds. The aim is to hurt the
company financially by convincing the stores to take the product
off the shelves. An e-cigarette boycott would not directly hurt
the tobacco workers themselves financially.
approached the store owner directly about removing the VUSE
electronic cigarette products from his shelves. According to
Pérez, that brand represents about one-third of RJ Reynolds
company sales these days. Two other convenience store chains in
the U.S. also are targets of the protests and boycott.