The day after shareholders of the UK-based British American Tobacco gathered for the virtual Annual General Meeting, a delegation of the US faith leaders, representing different religious traditions, visited the British Embassy in Washington to express their concerns about long-standing violations of farm workers’ rights in the BAT supply chain in the United States.
- The faith leaders went first to the British Embassy in Washington to present their case around freedom of association to representatives of the British Ambassador; the IUF then sent a detailed letter of their concerns and demands to BAT
- In 2014 the faith community first expressed concern that US tobacco company Reynolds, of which BAT was a minority shareholder, did not ensure the internationally recognized human right to freedom of association for farm workers on their contract farms in North Carolina; today, BAT now fully owns Reynolds with no progress on freedom of association
- The statement reads: “We seek justice for all workers and especially for farm workers who are some of the most vulnerable workers in our society. The social teachings of our faith traditions support the moral right to freedom of association and collective bargaining for farm workers. Workers who sign union cards, advocate for higher wages, or organize for better living and working conditions should not be subject to retaliation”
“The message is pretty straightforward:” says Baldemar Velasquez, FLOC President, “more than 500 faith leaders are concerned over human rights violations in BAT’s supply-chain operations in the US and call on the company to put an end to these practices.”