Tobacco Laborers Denied Basic Human Rights In The U.S.

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A report released by Oxfam America and the Farm Labor Organizing Committee shows that laborers working in American tobacco fields are frequently being denied basic human rights. Specifically:

Farm workers who toil in the tobacco fields of North Carolina often spend hours in the blistering sun and get paid less than the minimum wage. They are exposed to toxic chemicals just to do their jobs, according to a new report issued yesterday.

The report, “A State of Fear,” shows that one in four tobacco farm workers is paid less than the federal minimum wage. Many suffer from nicotine poisoning after absorbing nicotine through their bare skin. After a long day at work, they return to squalid living conditions such as overcrowded rooms with insect-infested mattresses and nonfunctioning toilets and showers.

This is yet another instance of the apparently widespread mistreatment of workers in the United States. Conservatives and business leaders would have you believe that American workers are overpaid, underworked, lazy and ungrateful. The reality is almost universally the opposite of that, and this report adds to the evidence that shows the true situation.

And, as always, the solutions to the problems are easy to achieve if politicians have the courage to do the right thing:

The report calls for:

- Manufacturers to respect the internationally recognized human rights of workers, including the right to freedom of association.
- Industry leaders to create a council that brings together manufacturers, growers, farm workers and their chosen representatives to address conditions.
- Manufacturers to work to ensure a stable industry by allowing more grower input in their pricing formulas.

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