Nestle can’t seem to shake its old habits, which include, according to some, baby killing, child slavery, and public water commodification.
Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
– A river is like a life: once taken,
it cannot be brought back © Jim Tatum
Hershey, Nestlé, Mars and Other Chocolate Makers Named in Child Slavery Class Action Lawsuit
Many people give chocolates as a symbol of love on Valentine’s Day, but for some the popular candy is more bitter than sweet.
A human rights group filed a lawsuit Friday on behalf of eight Malian men who say they were trafficked across the border to the Cote D’Ivoire and forced to harvest cocoa for one or more of seven popular companies, including Mars, Nestlé and Hershey.
“Enough is enough!” IRAdvocates Executive Director Terry Collingsworth said in a statement announcing the lawsuit. “Allowing the enslavement of African children in 2021 to harvest cocoa for major multinational companies is outrageous and must end.”
Child labor is a major and ongoing problem for cocoa production in West Africa. NORC at the University of Chicago found that 1.56 million children were harvesting cocoa in Cote D’Ivoire and Ghana during the 2018 and 2019 growing season, up 14 percent from 2015, IRAdvocates said. At the same time, 1.48 million children undertook dangerous tasks while working.
The defendant companies have long pledged to end the use of child slavery in their supply chains, but continually extend their deadlines for meeting this goal. In 2001, they signed the “Harkin-Engle Protocol” promising to end child labor by 2005; more than 15 years later, they are now promising to reduce the use of child labor by 70 percent by 2025.
The plaintiffs tell stories of being recruited in Mali under false pretenses; being trafficked across the border; and then being forced to work on cocoa farms without pay, travel documents or any knowledge of when they would be allowed to leave, The Guardian explained. While the companies named in the lawsuit do not directly own the farms where the children worked, the lawsuit contends that they knowingly benefited from their labor because they chose to contract from growers who could offer lower prices because they did not pay adult wages or provide adequate safety equipment.
The World Cocoa Foundation, to which all of the defendants belong, spoke out against child labor but argued that the responsibility for ending it fell to the government of the Côte d’Ivoir.
“The cocoa and chocolate industry has zero tolerance for any instances of forced labor in the supply chain,” World Cocoa Foundation President Richard Scobey said in a statement reported by Business Insider. “The government of Côte d’Ivoire has a comprehensive legal framework in place to pursue, arrest and bring to justice those who traffic children or adults.”
The individual companies gave similar statements decrying child labor but arguing that the solution involved multiple stakeholders acting together, and not targeted lawsuits. But IRAdvocates sees the lawsuits as a means of forcing companies to actually be a part of the solution.
“[I]n filing this new case we want these companies to know we will use every possible legal tool available to make them stop abusing child slaves,” Collingsworth said in a statement. “We call upon the companies to work with us [to] solve this problem, rather than spend millions in legal fees to fight an uncontestable fact – the cocoa industry is dependent upon child labor.”