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Did You Know: Slavery Lawsuit Against Nestle

Robin Alexander

Posted on June 29, 2018 11:50

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Did you know that there’s an ongoing lawsuit against Nestle (which dominates 70% of the world’s cocoa market) for, among other things, slavery?

The national addiction to Russia Gate, along with other Trump foibles, accomplishes one important thing aside from providing ongoing entertainment – no one’s paying much attention to what our corporations are up to. So we have to play the “Did you know” game.

Did you know that there’s an ongoing lawsuit against Nestle (which dominates 70% of the world’s cocoa market) for, among other things, slavery?

As reported by the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, three individuals with the help of Global Exchange (a human rights organization) and the International Labor Rights Fund filed a class action lawsuit in California federal court against Nestle, Cargill and Archer Daniels Midland in July 2005, alleging that they were trafficked from Mali to the Ivory Coast where they were “forced to work long hours without pay, kept in locked rooms when not working and suffered severe physical abuse by those guarding them” … and that the companies “aided, abetted or failed to prevent the torture, forced labor and arbitrary detention that they had suffered as child slaves.”

Strangely enough, the Nestle web site acknowledges child labor, if not slavery: “No company sourcing coca in Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana can fully remove the risk of child labor in its supply chain. Nestle is no different, but we’re determined to tackle the problem.” So we should give them a pass, right?

Legal maneuvers have gone back and forth since 2005 with corporate counsel claiming until today that the issue is “too far removed from the US for the companies to be held liable.” Oh, I don’t know about that (Nestle is Swiss, Cargill et al is American).

As recently as February 2016 Nestle admitted to slavery in Thailand. The world’s largest food producer and third-largest seafood exporter went public with the news that it had found forced labor in its seafood supply chains there. Stated Magdi Batato, Nestle’s EVP in charge of Operations, “As we’ve said consistently, forced labor and human rights abuses have no place in our supply chain.” Keep in mind that the seafood issue was already common knowledge and that during the same period, Nestle was attempting to get the US Supreme Court to throw out the other slavery suit.

As the Guardian puts it: “This places the company in the unfortunate position of disclosing slavery in one part of its operations, while fighting through the courts to fend off accusations that it exists in another -- more profitable -- part of its business.” Emphasis on “more profitable.”

As Andrew Wallis put it (chief executive of the anti-trafficking charity Unseen UK), “It’s easy to own up to something that has already been uncovered.” Of course, the self-reporting in Thailand is a great PR tactic.

Or, as Lee Camp puts it, “What happens in Africa stays in Africa – except for natural resources.”

So, if you’re inclined to boycott Nestle products: Nescafe, Nesquik, Perrier, Nestea, Purina, Toll House Cookies, Hot Pockets, Gerbers, Lean Cuisine, Haagen-Dasz, Osem, Stouffers, Nespresso, Coffee-mate and so many more.

Robin Alexander

Posted on June 29, 2018 11:50

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