Justice for Tobacco Farm Workers
WHEREAS, for more than two hundred years African Americans worked as slaves in the tobacco fields of the South and then as oppressed and powerless tenant farmers; and
WHEREAS, the NAACP wants to ensure that farm workers in the tobacco fields of the South never face these conditions again; and
WHEREAS, many farm workers often live in labor camps with inadequate or non- functioning toilets and showers and other substandard conditions, suffer from illnesses resulting from nicotine poisoning and exposure to dangerous pesticides and work long hours for below poverty wages; and
WHEREAS, child labor is also a problem in some tobacco fields; and
WHEREAS, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in his last days with us, spoke of "… going beyond the purely civil rights to questions of human rights," and said, "Now our struggle is for true equality, which means economic equality;" and
WHEREAS, the surest path to economic equality for all workers has been the exercise of their internationally-recognized human rights of freedom of association and collective bargaining without retaliation; by forming and/or joining a union, and collectively bargaining for a fair share of the product of their labor; and
WHEREAS, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spent his last days in Memphis with workers who were seeking to exercise their human right to freedom of association and to bargain collectively; and
WHEREAS, farm workers are excluded from the worker protections of the National Labor Relations Act; and
WHEREAS, large tobacco companies and union organizers have been in discussions for nearly three years over an agreement guaranteeing freedom of association and collective bargaining to tobacco farm workers on contract farms as of yet no agreement has been reached.
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the NAACP calls on all tobacco companies to work with union organizers and representatives to develop a written agreement that guarantees freedom of association and worker representation without retaliation on contract farms; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the NAACP calls for the collection of data on the detailed impact of tobacco farming and health of workers in the fields; the data is to be disaggregated by race, ethnicity, gender, age and other appropriate characteristics; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the NAACP will contact associations representing convenience stores and other retailers that sell tobacco products and call on the retailer to directly communicate with the tobacco companies that their consumers want them to establish a process that guarantees freedom of association and worker representation for tobacco farm workers in the tobacco supply chain; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the NAACP will join with other allied groups to demonstrate consumer support for union laborers at the local store level by participating in group visits to store managers and other lawful actions; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the NAACP will communicate directly with large tobacco companies by letter and other means and call on them to work with union organizers and representatives until a written agreement is reached, and continue these activities until union officials are satisfied with the company's response; and
BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, that the NAACP commits itself to bring justice to tobacco farm workers.