Skip to main content

Human Rights Watch report exposes child labor in NC tobacco fields

Jeremy Sprinkle
Social share icons

Read: "Tobacco's Hidden Children"

On Wednesday, Human Rights Watch released a new report revealing child labor in tobacco fields throughout North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia - the states where 90% of American tobacco is grown.

Sign the petition urging tobacco companies to stop using child labor:

More from the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC):

The report documents serious health problems among the children working in the fields, dangerous working conditions, long hours and low pay. Check out the video which includes interviews with children in the report. 

Child labor in the tobacco industry is not new, and in the wake of this report we have the opportunity to raise up the voices of farmworkers who are on the ground organizing and waging a campaign to eliminate child labor and secure fair pay and working conditions.

This morning, FLOC released the following statement on the HRW report:

“There is only one way to remedy the problem of child labor and other horrendous abuses that plague the tobacco industry. That remedy is that tobacco manufacturers guarantee freedom of association and collective bargaining rights for tobacco farmworkers. We can push for tougher laws or stronger company policies, but the reality is that child labor won’t end until families are able to negotiate better wages so that children don’t have to work in the fields to help sustain their family. Child labor won’t end until farmworkers themselves have a safe and effective way to speak out when abuses happen, without fearing retaliation from their employer. This can only happen when workers have a recognized voice in the work place.

In two weeks, FLOC will be launching the largest organizing drive since Chavez to call on America’s tobacco giants to recognize their collective voice. 5,000 new farmworker union members across North Carolina and Kentucky will be speaking out against human rights violations such as child labor, while working together to negotiate fair wages, better housing conditions, and safe and healthy work places.”

Read FLOC's post about the Human Rights Watch report.

Read the Human Rights Watch report, "Tobacco's Hidden Children".

Watch the video, MADE IN THE USA: Child Labor & Tobacco.

Labor Commissioner refuses to combat child labor

Amazingly, the head of the state agency tasked with overseeing workplaces and preventing child labor, Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry, has refused to combat documented child labor on North Carolina farms.

In 2012, the Farmworker Advocacy Network finally got a meeting with Berry to discuss troubling allegations of child labor in tobacco fields, but Berry refused to take any action against child labor without the consent of the businesses who profit from it.

Call Commissioner of Labor Cherie Berry at 919-807-2796 or 800-NCLABOR, and tell her to take swift and serious action to end the abuse of children in North Carolina tobacco fields!