Farmworker Advocates Call for a Boycott of VUSE E-Cigs Until R.J. Reynolds Guarantees the Right to Unionize | News
News
INDY Week's news blog

Archives | RSS

Friday, April 13, 2018

Farmworker Advocates Call for a Boycott of VUSE E-Cigs Until R.J. Reynolds Guarantees the Right to Unionize

Posted by on Fri, Apr 13, 2018 at 5:23 PM

click to enlarge SAMMY HANF
  • Sammy Hanf
At its convention last September, the Farm Labor Organizing Committee voted to approve a boycott of VUSE e-cigarettes until their manufacturer, the Winston-Salem-based R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, agreed to allow all the workers in its supply chain to unionize.

On April 9, the boycott began in earnest. Baldemar Velasquez, president of the FLOC, says protests will be held outside of convenience stores across the country in an effort to convince them to stop carrying VUSE e-cigarettes.

In Durham, just over thirty protestors gathered outside of a Circle K on Highway 54 last week to join in this demand. Velasquez says similar actions have already been held in over fifty cities across the country, with more to come. He says they are targeting convenience stores because that’s where one-third of Big Tobacco’s revenue comes from.

Couche Tard, the corporate parent of the Circle K and Kangaroo convenience store brands, did not respond to a request for comment.

Dave Austin, with Triangle Friends of Farmworkers, organized the event in Durham and says there will be similar ones held in Raleigh and Chapel Hill over the next week. He says he has seen firsthand the good the FLOC has done for farmworkers in North Carolina and wants to see those same protections extended to those in Reynold’s tobacco fields.

“They've been able to show with those workers how impactful a union can be,” Austin says. “They have a list of grievances that were filed last year through the union under the contract that were able to be resolved.”

Steve Schewel, mayor of Durham (and former owner of the INDY), attended the protest and says he supports the farmworkers’ cause and is proud of the work Triangle Friends of Farmworkers has done in Durham over the years.

Velasquez says the end goal of this campaign is to allow all farmworkers in R.J. Reynold’s supply chain the right to unionize, which he believes is crucial to stopping what he describes as rampant abuse by the contractors the company sources its tobacco from.

A 2011 Oxfam report found rampant wage theft and violations of safety regulations throughout North Carolina’s tobacco fields.

John Wilson, vice president of corporate sustainability for R.J. Reynolds, says through a spokesperson that the company is committed to improving conditions for farmworkers and that North Carolina law prevents Reynolds from requiring their contractors to have a unionized workforce.

But Velasquez says he believes Reynolds was complicit in allowing that law to pass, and it’s irresponsible for the company to act as if its hands are tied when it benefits from contractors who skirt labor regulations at the expense of workers.

Raul Jimenez, a former farmworker who used to work with the FLOC, says that, despite what Reynolds says, he hasn’t seen any meaningful improvement in the conditions farmworkers face in the fields.

“While I was working at FLOC, there was this camp that got new housing and it was great, it was nice there, but at that farm, they were still not being paid correctly,” he says. “When a worker spoke out, the worker got fired, so it's just a Band-Aid.”

Velasquez says boycott participants are also committing to hand out leaflets outlining their demands on a monthly basis to maintain momentum. He says he doesn’t know how long the boycott will last, but the FLOC is in it for the long haul.

Tags: , , , , ,

Pin It

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

INDY Week publishes all kinds of comments, but we don't publish everything.

  • Comments that are not contributing to the conversation will be removed.
  • Comments that include ad hominem attacks will also be removed.
  • Please do not copy and paste the full text of a press release.

Permitted HTML:
  • To create paragraphs in your comment, type <p> at the start of a paragraph and </p> at the end of each paragraph.
  • To create bold text, type <b>bolded text</b> (please note the closing tag, </b>).
  • To create italicized text, type <i>italicized text</i> (please note the closing tag, </i>).
  • Proper web addresses will automatically become links.

Latest in News



Twitter Activity

Comments

Police murdered MR. CLARK and got away with it. IT WON'T STOP UNTIL ALL DIRTY COPS ARE BROUGHT TO JUSTICE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

by William Parker on Durham Police Fatally Shoot Man At New Hope Commons Shopping Center (News)

In the Montessori School of Raleigh Defendants' Answer and Affirmative Defenses to the 18 CVS 000702 case in Superior Court …

by Sam Harrison on Breaking: Nancy Errichetti, Head of the Montessori School of Raleigh, Arrested for Allegedly Aiding and Abetting Sexual Abuse (News)

Most Recent Comments

Police murdered MR. CLARK and got away with it. IT WON'T STOP UNTIL ALL DIRTY COPS ARE BROUGHT TO JUSTICE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

by William Parker on Durham Police Fatally Shoot Man At New Hope Commons Shopping Center (News)

In the Montessori School of Raleigh Defendants' Answer and Affirmative Defenses to the 18 CVS 000702 case in Superior Court …

by Sam Harrison on Breaking: Nancy Errichetti, Head of the Montessori School of Raleigh, Arrested for Allegedly Aiding and Abetting Sexual Abuse (News)

Ingrid - the facts are coming out, you're right. But they don't support your assertions, sorry to say. Too many …

by ToWhomItMayConcern on Montessori School of Raleigh Directress Says She Was Fired for Talking to the Cops About Sexual Abuse at the School (News)

I just read this salacious thread for the first time and unfortunately found it to be overflowing with misleading information …

by Ingrid Flutter on Montessori School of Raleigh Directress Says She Was Fired for Talking to the Cops About Sexual Abuse at the School (News)

Trigger-happy Durham cops strike again.

by ruby on Durham Police Fatally Shoot Man At New Hope Commons Shopping Center (News)

© 2018 Indy Week • 320 E. Chapel Hill St., Suite 200, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
RSS Feeds | Powered by Foundation