Valdemar Velasquez

Dick Meister: Danger and death in the tobacco fields


By Dick Meister


Dick Meister, who has covered labor and political issues for more than a half-century, is co-author of "A Long Time Coming: The Struggle To Unionize America's Farm Workers" (Macmillan). Contact him through his website,

Amid all the well-deserved concern over the deadly effects of tobacco on smokers, we've largely overlooked  tobacco's other major victims – the workers who harvest the damn stuff for the great profit of  tobacco companies, often because they have virtually no other way to make a living.

There are nearly 100,000 tobacco harvesters, some as young as 12, most of them Mexican immigrants. They work during the summer in the tobacco fields of North Carolina, the country's leading tobacco producer. As the AFL-CIO, its Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC), the human rights group Oxfam America and others have reported, the workers' pay and working and living conditions are abominable. Read more »