A response to "Another level of oversight for farmers who hire migrant workers?"
A spokesman for Reynolds American Inc wrote with reservations about some of the phrasing in the story I wrote yesterday on a possible industrywide council on farm worker conditions. It follows:
To the editor:
RAI, or Dan Delen for that matter, did not propose the formation of the council. That was a recommendation in the Oxfam report [for a summary of the report, go to http://www.oxfamamerica.org.]. What was announced at the annual [RAI] shareholder meeting was that RAI was prepared to participate actively in such an endeavor which brings together all of the affected stakeholders. Of course, one of those stakeholders is the grower associations. We believe that making significant progress on improving the work environment for U.S. farm workers can best be achieved by taking this broader view of the situation. The complex issues surrounding agricultural labor can only be significantly enhanced if the perspectives of all stakeholders are reflected.
The editor responds: I'm sorry, but I don't see the distinction here. Mr. Delen brought this concept to the attention of the public, but he says he did not intend it as a proposal? Well, maybe suggestion would have been closer to what he meant to convey but I feel like my report is a fair summation of how this concept will resonate for the grower. Delen's comments were not available in written form at the time I wrote the story--if they become available later, I will share them with you. May I say here that I am very concerned that the concept could result in a great loss of bargaining power on the part of growers in the debate over who will regulate the employment of migrant workers.