Various North Carolina farmers affiliated with RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company illegally hired children under 13 years old to harvest tobacco crops, a recent report revealed. Commissioned by the tobacco company, the audit found that 40% of its contractor farms employed underage workers, violating the Federal law on child labor. In particular, 16% of minors (under the age of 16) illegally performed hazardous work.
Baldemar Velasquez, president of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee, AFL-CIO (FLOC), says “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.” He adds, “Reynolds has continuously denied that these conditions exist and has tried to sweep labor issues under the rug.” In 2014, after a Human Rights Watch report brought public attention to the issue, RJ Reynolds American and Altria Group pledged to put a halt to the hiring of children under age 16. According to Velasquez, though, it is not a priority so it’s not happening.