Friday, September 24, 2010

Farm Labor Organizing Committee Opens Campaign Against Chase Bank

FLOC opens campaign against Chase bank

Published Sep 22, 2010 8:55 PM
By Briana Connors and Ben Carroll
Dudley, N.C.

The struggle for justice being waged by North Carolina farmworkers who toil in the fields for tobacco giant R.J. Reynolds continues to push forward. On Sept. 7 the Farm Labor Organizing Committee announced a divestment campaign targeted at JPMorgan Chase Bank.

For years farmworkers have fought for the most basic improvements in the slave-like working conditions in tobacco fields. The mostly immigrant workforce faces long hours stooping under the hot sun, intense racism, extremely low wages, deplorable housing, and numerous health and safety hazards, among many other terrible working conditions. Reynolds rakes in annual profit of more than $2 billion extracted directly from the super-exploitation of those who labor in the fields.

Despite the organizing of FLOC and the massive community support that FLOC has built behind the workers’ demands, Reynolds still refuses to come to the table to negotiate with the workers.

During the U.S. Social Forum in Detroit, FLOC and the Moratorium Now! Coalition organized a demonstration against Chase Bank, targeting them for their role in financing farmworker abuse in North Carolina and in foreclosing and evicting people from their homes throughout the U.S. During the march FLOC announced that if Chase did not pressure Reynolds about the farmworkers’ demands or cut their financial ties with Reynolds by Labor Day, FLOC would organize a massive divestment campaign against the bank.

Join the Chase divestment campaign!

JPMorgan Chase is one of the leading creditors among a pool of lenders who finance the Reynolds tobacco giant, giving nearly half a billion dollars in rolling credit to the company. This puts Chase in a position to exert a great deal of power over Reynolds — power they could use to support the demands of the workers to improve working conditions in the fields.

Since May 12, FLOC has been building a campaign to force Chase to push Reynolds to negotiate with the workers. If the tobacco company refuses, FLOC wants Chase to then cut off the lending stream the bank extends to the company. Chase has thus far refused to do either.

With the Labor Day deadline passed, FLOC has promised to build the divestment campaign against Chase until the bank takes action to bring Reynolds to the table.

FLOC has put out a call to everyone who supports the farmworkers’ struggle to pull their money out of Chase, close their credit card accounts and refuse to do business with the bank until it takes a stand for the farmworkers who supply R.J. Reynolds with tobacco.

Solidarity pours in

Already the campaign is drawing tremendous support from progressives, community organizations, labor unions and social justice organizations across the world, with many pledging to support the divestment campaign.

In addition to receiving activist support, the struggle against Reynolds and Chase has also recently gotten support and solidarity from several of the largest labor unions in the U.S.

On Aug. 24 Mine Workers union President Cecil Roberts visited North Carolina to tour the tobacco fields with FLOC and meet with the workers. After seeing firsthand the conditions they face on a daily basis, Roberts pledged to support the campaign.

On Sept. 18 a United Auto Workers delegation that included UAW President Bob King met with tobacco workers to discuss ways the UAW could support the workers’ struggle. Francisco, a longtime FLOC member, told reporters, “It was a wonderful experience to have such an important person come to meet us and to listen to us and see the problems that we have here — to understand what we leave behind in our country in order to work a lot and earn a few dollars to help our families.”

At a reception that evening for the labor camp visitors, King spoke of the need to create a broader, social justice unionism and to build more concrete solidarity between union struggles, pledging the UAW’s full support to the FLOC campaign.

“To think that human beings can treat other human beings this way — it’s devastating, it’s really wrong,” King said at the reception. “I’m happy to be an ally of FLOC and look forward to working together to bring justice to workers down here. ... This is an extremely important fight for social justice.”

FLOC is talking with other unions across the U.S. and throughout the world to find more ways to build solidarity with the workers’ demands.

With all the anti-immigrant scapegoating being propagated in the mainstream media, and by the likes of the Tea Party and Glenn Beck, this solidarity and unity are exactly what is needed to cut through these distortions and win justice for the farmworkers in the fields of North Carolina.
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