Before one spends another nickel on a Nestles or Hershey chocolate bar, one might want to consider where it came from, how it was produced, who suffered for it, and how it arrived in one’s hands to deliver its diabetic payload.
A child enslaved by Nestles for the cheap chocolate pleasures of others had this to say when asked what he would like chocolate lovers to hear: “They enjoy something I suffered to make. I worked hard for them but saw no benefit. They are eating my flesh.”
Instead of any benefit, this former child slave and dozens of others who have come forward suffered daily beatings while being forced to work without pay.
U.S. Supreme Court votes for Humanity?
The U.S. Supreme Court, at least five of whom regularly genuflect to corporations at the expense of working people – see the infamous Citizen’s United decision; Mensing v. Pliva; Bartlett v. Mutual Pharmaceutical; Wal-Mart v. Dukes; etc. – has surprisingly made the humane decision, in this case, to allow former slave workers to sue Nestle and Hershey for unspeakable injustice. The cocoa giants used subsidiaries to enslave, imprison and force their will on weaker and defenseless people. They beat them them regularly just as a matter of course. Nestle got its pound of flesh so chocolate lovers could get theirs.
Supreme Court rules for Nestle Slaves
Activist Post reported this week that on Jan. 11, 2016, the Supreme Court ruled that a lawsuit filed by former child slaves against corporate giant Nestle can move forward. Nestle had appealed a lower court’s prior ruling to allow the suit, and the Supremes agreed to hear the case (no surprise there as the Roberts court has rarely seen an anti-corporate, pro-human decision it didn’t like), but then surprisingly backed the lower court’s decision. Nestle had tried to stop lawsuits from former child slaves forced to toil in the African cocoa trade.
Reuters reports that three former Malian child laborers – named as known as “John Does” in the matter – “contend the companies aided and abetted human rights violations through their active involvement in purchasing cocoa from Ivory Coast. While aware of the child slavery problem, the companies offered financial and technical assistance to local farmers in a bid to guarantee the cheapest source of (cocoa.)”
Nestle, of course, does not enslave children directly. The chocolate monster knows better than that. Instead, it hires farmers who enslave children; so that Nestle can pretend the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing. It’s the corporate way.
A documentary first aired in 2000 – ‘Slavery: A Global Investigation – detailed the rancid horrors children face in West African nations, so Nestles can hardly hide behind its see-no-evil defense. The world has known about child slavery in African cocoa plantation production for far too long.
Anti-Media summed it up this way:
“Nineteen children freed from slavery near the Ivory Coast — and their new guardian — detailed the staggering conditions of the cutthroat trade: the young children worked ‘from dawn until dusk every day’ and were forced to sleep in small sheds. They were given a tin cup in which to urinate. The children endured a six-month ‘breaking in’ process which included regular beatings. Sadly, they had difficulty understanding why they were not paid for their hard labor, which included carrying 100-pound bags of cocoa beans and, often, exposure to hazardous conditions.”
Chocolate Executive sees no Evil
“[N]o one, repeat, no one, had ever heard of this,” then-Senior Vice President of Hershey’s, Robert M. Reese told the Philadelphia Inquirer in 2001. “Your instinct is that Hershey should have known. But the fact is we didn’t know.”
Activist Post reports that, “Though Nestle, Hershey, Mars, and other chocolate behemoths voluntarily vowed to solve the problem — evading impending congressional legislation that would have forced the issue — they dragged their feet, repeatedly earning time extensions from lawmakers. To this day, Nestle touts its investments in supporting local farmers and helping children — yet the practice still continues.”
A 2015 Department of Labor study run by researchers at the Payson Center for International Development at Tulane University found the percentage of children working in the cocoa industry in the Ivory Coast increased 51% from 2008-09 to 2013-14. The study showed that candy companies had failed to end child labor. More than two million children still worked in hazardous conditions in 2014 in just Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana.
The Jan. 11, 2016 Supreme Court ruling dealt with a 2009 lawsuit filed by three Malians who moved to sue Nestle and other chocolate makers under the Alien Tort Statute. The lawsuits alleged forced labor, whippings, beatings, and other hazardous conditions. In 2010, a U.S. District Judge dismissed their case, arguing corporations may not be sued under the Alien Tort Statute.
Judge Dorothy Nelson, Human Being
In December 2013, however, a divided Ninth District Court found the former child laborers may having legal standing. In September 2014, Judge Dorothy Nelson of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals for the Central District of California confirmed that ruling, writing:
“The prohibition against slavery is universal and may be asserted against the corporate defendants in this case. Private, non-state actors were held liable at Nuremberg for slavery offenses… The prohibition against slavery applies to state actors and non-state actors alike, and there are no rules exempting acts of enslavement carried out on behalf of a corporation.”
Supreme Court up to old Tricks
Nestle is, of course, not giving up its legal ploys to evade responsibility and accountability. Many dubious corporations have enjoyed a Supreme Court-sanctioned corporate free pass from the types of transgressions in the chocolate industry. In 2013 the Roberts Court ruled in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co. that 12 Nigerians who accused Royal Dutch Shell of aiding state-sanctioned violence and torture had no status in U.S. courts. The Supremes dismissed the case, ruling that,“the 1789 Alien Tort Statute was presumed to cover only violations of international law occurring in the United States.” It established a precedent that – surprise! – favors corporations at the expense of human beings.
Though the Supreme Court decided differently Jan. 11, dismissing Nestle’s appeals, the ruling does not guarantee the former slaves will find justice. According to the Ninth Circuit appellate decision, however, as The Wall Street Journal stated, the plaintiffs “should have the opportunity to amend their lawsuit before judges decide whether their claims can go forward under the new rules announced by the Supreme Court in 2013 [in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleium Co.].”
Consumers share Blame
While lawsuits may eventually help some victims achieve some measure of justice, chocolate demand continues unabated and continues the awful cycle. Miki Mistrati, documentary film maker of 2014’s ‘Shady Chocolate,’ places some blame squarely on all us chocolate freaks. “Consumers have not been critical enough,” Mr. Mistrati said. “They have not asked why a chocolate bar only costs $1 when the cocoa comes from Africa. Customers have been too easy to trick with smart ads.”