Various North Carolina farmers partnered with R.J. Reynolds tobacco company illegally hires children under 13 years old to harvest their tobacco crops, report released Wednesday stated.
A recent audit commissioned by the tobacco company found that 40 percent of its contractor farms employed under age workers, therefore violating the Federal law on child labor, including 16 percent of minors under the age of 16 were illegally performing hazardous work.
Baldemar Velasquez, president of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee, AFL-CIO (FLOC), says he’s not surprised by the audit results.
“We’ve been telling the company for eight years now that there are serious labor violations happening all over Southern tobacco fields, including on Reynolds farms. Imagine what the audits would have found if they were allowed to talk to more workers and ask more in depth questions about the workers’ experiences,” said Velasquez. “Rather than working with us to solve the issues, Reynolds has continuously denied that these conditions exist and has tried to sweep labor issues under the rug.”
At least five minors were also working in the fields without their families, the audit carried out by Footprint Benchmark found, including three who had parental consent.
Reynolds American and Altria Group, the two largest U.S. tobacco manufacturing firms, promised in 2014 to prohibit hiring children under 16 to work on tobacco farms.
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