Eight children have accused chocolate companies like Mondelez, Mars, Hershey, Cargill, Olam, Barry Callebaut as well as Nestle of child slavery. They claimed that they formerly were used as slaves. They also claim the place to be in Ivory Coast’s cocoa plantations. The children added that these firms had supported such treatment of “thousands” more children on cocoa farms in their supply chain.
Hence, they filed a lawsuit in Washington DC. The above-mentioned firms are the defendants. It was pressed by International Rights Advocates or IRA, a human rights company, on behalf of all 8 of the former child slaves. The 8 unnamed people said that they were forced as slaves to work on the cocoa plantations in the African country without any pay. The plaintiffs are natives of Mali. All of them are now young adults. Thus, they are all seeking damages for forced child slavery.
There are demands for unjust enrichment in the form of compensation. Negligent supervision as well as inflicting intentional emotional distress are other charges pressed on the companies. No continental US chocolate company has ever faced an action of this class before. The documents submitted in court say that all the experiences by the accusers represent several other minors around the world. The documents were based on previous information from Unicef and International Labor Organization.
Human Rights History In West Africa With Child Slavery
Child slavery, poverty, lower pay as well as human rights abuse are subjects of cocoa production in West Africa. The Ivory Coast produces over 45% of the global cocoa. Cocoa is the critical ingredient in making chocolate.
Hence, the allegations by the accusers mention that the firms did not directly own the farms. But for years, the companies had supported it, and also gained profits from the crime. This indicates that the companies as defendants knew of the illegal child slavery. Employing younger laborers also proved to be cheap. The reports further say that the suppliers were able to offer lower prices to the firms, but the prices would be higher with adult employees.
They also further said that they were tricked into their labor.
The child slavery lawsuit also further accuses the firms of a misled promise. The promise dated back to 2001. In it, they misled the public by saying they would “phase out’’ the child labor. They proposed the initial deadline for this promise back in 2005. But 2025 is the new target set for the achievement. The World Cocoa Foundation made a new commitment.
The documents by the accusers also claim that the hiring was all deception. It began in Mali, where the children were employed. From there, the trafficking started, and they ended up in Ivory Coast. There, they worked for many years. The employers forced the children to work without any pay or even the knowledge of where they were. The children did not know where they could contact their families either.
Every plaintiff was under 16 years old when hired. One of them was just 11 years old. He lived and worked for 2 years with nothing in payment. A man in Mali promised him 25,000 CFA (34 GBP). He applied the herbicides and pesticides with no proper gear. The papers also describe the defendants as “dominants” in the market. One of the children has visible cuts on his arms that occurred while working.
Several of the defending firms have given their statements, including Nestle, Olam, and Mars. Mondelez did not respond to any queries. Hershey did not say anything about the child slavery lawsuit.