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Local IWW union calls for farm worker solidarity this Friday in Grand Rapids

January 31, 2011

The local branch of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) is calling for solidarity with farm workers this Friday by supporting the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) campaign.

FLOC has been engaged in a campaign to get people to divest from JP Morgan Chase banks because of their financial support for the tobacco giant RJ Reynolds. The campaign is based upon the working conditions and wages of workers who are employed on tobacco farms in North Carolina.

According to FLOC the work conditions are horrendous, where workers are subjected to long hours, harassment at work, abject poverty, miserable housing in the labor camps and denial of basic labor and human rights conditions. FLOC also states, “Adequate shower and laundry facilities are often lacking, making it difficult to wash off pesticide residue.  Each year, thousands of workers suffer from Green Tobacco Sickness (GTS), which is caused by a high level of nicotine absorption through the skin.  Short term effects include dizziness, nausea, and dehydration, which can lead to more serious health problems such as heat stroke.

Tobacco giant RJ Reynolds makes at least $2 billion a year in profits, but those profits do not translate into just wages for migrant workers who pick the tobacco. FLOC has been pressuring the company for over a year, with a campaign that includes targeting the tobacco giant’s largest financial lender, JP Morgan Chase.

We reported last June at the US Social Forum about a protest march in Detroit where members of FLOC and supporters went to the main branch of JP Morgan Chase to demand that they discontinue doing business with RJ Reynolds until the workers demands are met. JP Morgan Chase bank is the lead bank in a consortium of Reynolds American creditors, lending Reynolds American $489 million in funds.

The divestment campaign that FLOC initiated on Labor Day of 2010 is asking people to not bank with JP Morgan Chase bank. Many people have already pulled their accounts with JP Morgan Chase bank, but FLOC states that more people need to divest from the bank in order to put enough pressure on Reynolds America.

The Grand Rapids branch of the IWW will be one of 200 actions across the country this Friday, February 4 as a show of solidarity with farmworkers fighting for justice in North Carolina. IWW spokesperson Shannon Williams said, We are participating in this action because the IWW believes that an injury to one is an injury to all. It is important for workers to act in solidarity with other workers when they are being exploited.”

The IWW plans on being at the 1100 Michigan Avenue branch of the JP Morgan Chase bank in Grand Rapids from 4:00pm til 5:30pm this Friday. They are inviting anyone to join them with signs and they will be handing out an informational flyer to bank customers during their solidarity action.


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