Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) recently got a firsthand look at deplorable working and living conditions that thousands of tobacco farm workers in North Carolina endure. She was part of a delegation that included two members of Britain’s Parliament, Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) President Baldemar Velasquez, AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Tefere Gebre and several AFL-CIO Union Summer interns who are taking part in FLOC's "Respect, Recognition, Raise" campaign and fight for a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work, respect in the workplace and union recognition. Kaptur wrote about her findings in a column for The Nation. Here’s an excerpt:
During my visit, I found workers who labor eleven hours a day under grueling conditions at high season for $7.25 an hour. As many as twelve men sleep jammed inside ramshackle, dilapidated trailers or barracks. There is no hot water, no decent laundry facilities, no air-conditioning, substandard electrical and gas wiring, and flush toilets are a luxury. I saw injured workers, including one man who had lost part of his index finger in a work accident, who lacked basic protections and health care. I heard women testify of the sexual abuse they face to secure work and pay, but still they and their children live in squalor in the richest nation in the world.
My counterparts in the British Parliament, Ian Lavery and Jim Sheridan, were also shocked by what they described as human rights violations. Mr. Lavery said rapists and murderers have it better in prison than many of the tobacco workers in Carolina. Both he and Mr. Sheridan broke down in tears more than once at what they witnessed.