On June 25, a bus full of FLOC members joined hundreds of FLOC supporters in Detroit to keep the pressure on the Reynolds American corporate machinery in an effort to end rampant human right abuses in the company’s supply chain.Many might wonder how a group of poor Mexican farmworkers expect to exert enough pressure on a company as wealthy and powerful as Reynolds to make them change their policies regarding their supply chain. The largest of the corporate giants, while potentially intimidating, also reveals a group of players that might be more willing to do the right thing (given the correct amount of pressure).
For example, the Campaign’s most recent win, involved (now ex) Reynolds board member Betsy Atkins, who also sits on the board of Chicos FAS, Inc., an upscale women’s clothing company. FLOC mobilized supporters nationwide to communicate with Betsy Atkins to use her position to change Reynolds policy of ignoring human rights abuses in its supply chain. After she refused to respond, the labor union began contacting Chico’s directly, to inform them about the company their board member was keeping. After a few months of fax-in days, phone calls, and store visits, asking Chico’s to use its influence with Ms. Atkins to influence her and Reynolds to do the right thing, the company gave Ms. Atkins an ultimatum: stick with Reynolds and its embarrassingly abusive supply chain, or remain on the Chico’s board. Ms. Atkins chose the latter and on June 17, she tendered her resignation from the Reynolds board (forgoing over $200K compensation from the tobacco giant).
Moving full steam ahead, FLOC began following the money trail and seeking help from Reynolds creditor JP Morgan Chase, which leads a consortium of lenders floating almost $500 million in credit to the tobacco giant. After being given the run around by JP Morgan Chase leaders, FLOC decided to give them a little push. At the US Social Forum in Detroit, FLOC organized a rally and march to the Chase building downtown and kicked off a campaign to collect pledges from people of conscience to take their money out of the bank and close credit cards the day after labor day (September 7, 2010) if the bank does not help arrange a meeting with Reynolds leadership.
FLOC is also seeking to involve the British American Tobacco Co. (BAT), which owns 42 percent of Reynolds shares, to find a solution to the abuses in the Reynolds supply chain. As an IUF affiliate, FLOC is working with the federation to put international pressure on BAT to be part of the solution. FLOC recently received a weak public relations response, denying any problems in the supply chain and questioning FLOC’s motives. For more information, stay tuned to www.floc.com.
Every time this exploitative system is revealed and denounced, the campaign for justice in the tobacco fields gets stronger. We hope you will stand with us as we continue to find ways to influence corporate policies that put profits over people. In the immortal words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “when you impede the rich man’s ability to make money, everything is negotiable.” Make your pledge to boycott JP Morgan Chase!