Site Logo

Improving Working Conditions for Tobacco Farmworkers in the United States

September 02, 2016

Secretary Massieu with workers.jpgAlliance One was honored to have Mexico’s Secretary of Foreign Affairs Claudia Ruiz Massieu visit one of our contracted growers and his workers during her visit to North Carolina this summer. The vast majority of Alliance One’s contracted growers in the United States use the H2A VISA program to hire seasonal, migrant workers from Mexico to produce their crops and, as one grower said, “our farming operation would not exist without guest workers from Mexico!”

Given the integral role that Mexican migrant workers play in North Carolina tobacco production, Alliance One is committed to doing what we can to help improve their experience while working in the United States. This summer was the second year of Alliance One’s ongoing work with the Mexican Consulate’s office of the Carolinas, who sent representatives to meet with workers on multiple AOI-contracted tobacco farms this year.

During these farm visits, the workers learned about the services offered by the Consulate’s office and were able to share information about their experiences as a migrant worker in the United States, such as challenges with crossing the border, paying taxes and continuing education. The new Consul General for the Carolinas, Remedios Gomez Arnau, took note of challenges that the workers raised, and is following up with workers to let them know what the office is doing to help. We appreciate the Consul General’s clear dedication and commitment to helping Mexican farmworkers.

The work with the Mexican Consulate is just one part of Alliance One’s continued implementation of our internal Agricultural Labor Practices (ALP) program in the United States. Over the past few years, we have focused on helping farmers improve on-farm safety and better understand how to remain in compliance with U.S. law, as well as comply with our ALP program.

Alliance One provides training to our contracted growers through group settings, as well as individually during regular on-farm compliance monitoring visits. Posters, brochures and other materials are provided to help both the farmer and the workers understand their rights and responsibilities. Our contracted growers are contractually required to abide by Alliance One’s Child Labor Policy. In the U.S., our policy states that they may not hire any labor under the age of 16 and any hired 16- or 17-year-old workers may not be involved with hazardous tasks. We continually emphasize this aspect of our program with growers during our group trainings as well as during individual farm visits.

Alliance One also provided waterproof ponchos, a form of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), to workers to help protect them against Green Tobacco Sickness and, as in past years, we also sponsored several on-farm safety and compliance training events throughout tobacco-growing states and expanded our worker outreach efforts this year by supporting the launch of a new worker concerns helpline through GAP Connections.

100% of our contracted growers were trained and then monitored for compliance with our ALP programs through farm visits, and we also conducted worker interviews in the workers’ native language to better understand working conditions from their perspective. We were pleased that overall feedback from workers was positive.

All information from our farm visits was documented in AOI’s Growers Management System so that we could track ongoing issues and document trends in any areas. Several of our contracted farms were also audited by independent third-party organizations.  

While there remains room for improvement regarding conditions for farmworkers on tobacco farms in the United States, we are pleased with the progress we have made thus far and the commitment of our contracted growers to working with us to improve working conditions on their farms.

Back to News