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IRAdvocates Files Opposition Brief to Cocoa Companies Motion to Dismiss

Wed, 09/29/2021 - 18:53 -- admin

Earlier this year, IRAdvocates filed a new lawsuit  against Nestlé, Cargill, Mars, Hershey, Olam, Barry Callebaut, and Mondelez on behalf of eight formerly enslaved children who were trafficked from Mali and brought to Côte D’Ivoire where they were forced to perform hazardous work harvesting cocoa for one or more of these giant multinationals. The case was filed using a relatively new law, the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (“TVPRA”). Under this broad law designed to shut down the horrific practices involved in modern slavery, our clients, eight formerly enslaved children, merely need to show the chocolate companies acted together and knowingly benefited from forced labor or trafficking. The companies filed a truly shocking Motion to Dismiss. Twenty years after they acted collectively and signed the Harkin-Engel Protocol in 2001 and promised to end their admitted use of the “worst forms of child labor,” the companies argue to a U.S. federal judge that they are mere purchasers of cocoa, they don’t have sufficient knowledge of forced child labor to be liable, they have no control over the cocoa farmers in Cote D’Ivoire, because they are so far removed from cocoa harvesting operations, holding them liable for using cocoa harvested by enslaved children would be akin to holding consumers of chocolate liable, and, by the way, they “strongly condemn the use of forced labor.”

We just filed our Opposition brief, PDF below. We demonstrate in great detail that these companies have been working together since 2001, when they signed the Harkin-Engel Protocol and promised to end their reliance on the “worst forms of child labor” by 2005. Instead of ending their use of enslaved children, taking a cue from Big Tobacco, the companies have engaged in a massive and misleading scheme to continue profiting from enslaved children while they lie to the public and regulators about their progress. The chocolate companies gave themselves four extensions of time and now claim by 2025 they will “reduce by 70%” their reliance on child labor. Think about that – after 20 years, they admit they are still using child labor and won’t even stop in 2025. This is evil genius! They have somehow given themselves permission to profit from child slavery until they decide they will stop enslaving children. During the 20 years they have been claiming to consumers they are making progress, a U.S. Department of Labor study found the number of children harvesting cocoa has increased and today 1.56 million children are harvesting cocoa.

These companies have been knowingly profiting from child slavery for well over 20 years. They are outright lying to a federal judge about their responsibility for their supply chains. They will only stop when we make them. Help us do that by contacting the companies directly and support our legal efforts. Here’s how: