Will­ful Ig­no­rance as Cop­ing Mech­a­nism to Be Blamed for Child Slav­ery

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Will­ful Ig­no­rance as Cop­ing Mech­a­nism to Be Blamed for Child Slav­ery

Eleven years ago, three in­di­vid­u­als from Global Ex­change ( or­ga­ni­za­tion for hu­man rights) and Mali filed a class action law­suit in fed­eral court of Cal­i­for­nia un­der pseudonyms against Cargill, Nestlé, and Archer Daniels Mid­land. The in­di­vid­u­als re­port­edly al­leged they had been traf­ficked as child slaves from Mali and forced to work in Côte d’ivoire for cul­ti­vat­ing and har­vest­ing co­coa beans. The plain­tiffs re­ported that they were com­pelled to work longer hours with­out a wage, suf­fered phys­i­cal abuse by em­ploy­ers, and were kept caged in rooms af­ter longer and ex­haust­ing work­ing hours. The plain­tiffs al­leged that the or­ga­ni­za­tions sup­ported, en­cour­aged, and ne­glected to re­strain tor­ture, which they had to go through be­ing the vic­tim of child slav­ery. The law­suit claimed vi­o­la­tions of the US

Con­sti­tu­tion and Cal­i­for­nia State Law’s Tor­ture Vic­tim Pro­tec­tion Act and Alien Tort Claims Act. Fur­ther, the plain­tiffs went on record claim­ing

that the or­ga­ni­za­tions’ econ­omy reaps ben­e­fits from the child la­bor vi­o­la­tions Cus­tom­ary In­ter­na­tional Law, In­ter­na­tional La­bor Con­ven­tions, and the Law Of Na­tions.

Nestlé, one of the world’s largest food com­pa­nies by rev­enue, filed a mo­tion in Au­gust 2005, to co­erce the real names of plain­tiffs who served as a child la­bor, which was im­me­di­ately op­posed by the in­di­vid­u­als who filed the case. Ad­di­tion­ally, the de­fen­dants filed a mo­tion seek­ing the law­suit dis­missal, which al­leged they abet­ted and aided child slav­ery. Fur­ther de­tails were or­dered to be filed by the Fed­eral Court on 27 July 2006 re­gard­ing abet­ting and aid­ing child la­bor stan­dards. The court dis­missed the law­suit on 8 Septem­ber 2010 con­clud­ing that it could not be claimed un­der the Alien Tort Claims Act. The Fed­eral Court claimed that cur­rent author­i­ties did not man­i­fest that cor­po­rate li­a­bil­ity was well es­tab­lished and uni­ver­sally suf­fi­cient to sat­isfy pre­rog­a­tive un­der the Alien Tort Claims Act.

The plain­tiffs so­licited the dis­missal. A Fed­eral Ap­peals Court re­pealed the rul­ing in De­cem­ber 2013, which was passed in 2010, al­low­ing plain­tiffs to re- file the class action law­suit.

Over­turn­ing and aban­don­ing the dis­missal of the law­suit by the lower court, the Fed­eral Ap­peals Court al­ter­nated its opin­ion of De­cem­ber 2013 with an ex­panded ver­sion. The fresh sets of ex­panded opin­ion were es­tab­lished for of­fer­ing the plain­tiffs to rec­tify their com­plaint to demon­strate the link their al­le­ga­tions have to the U. S. to ad­dress the hold­ing of the US Supreme Court in Kio­bel v. Shell case. The court es­tab­lished that the plain­tiffs can bring their claim un­der the case of Alien Tort be­cause of the pro­hi­bi­tion against child slav­ery uni­ver­sally. The de­fen­dants filed a mo­tion to Supreme Court seek­ing dis­missal of rul­ing given by the Fed­eral Ap­peals Court and want it to de­cide if or­ga­ni­za­tions were li­able to be sub­jected un­der the Alien Tort Claims Act. In Jan­uary 2016, plac­ing a tem­po­rary halt over the nag­ging is­sue, the Supreme Court de­clined to con­sider the ap­peal made by three gi­ant de­fen­dants seek­ing the law­suit dis­missal, which was al­leg­ing they abet­ted and aided child slav­ery in Africa for co­coa plan­ta­tions.

Nestlé’s Worst Irony: Fairy God Fa­ther to Some, Dread­ful Gi­ant to An­other

Mod­ern Slav­ery, as peo­ple quote the con­cept of child la­bor, has taken the worst turn any­one could’ve ever en­vis­aged.

It’s tough to think of an is­sue, which you would less pre­fer your or­ga­ni­za­tion to be as­so­ci­ated with rather than child slav­ery in the mod­ern age. Yet, Nestlé, the largest food­maker and one of the most rec­og­nized brands in the world is found guilty of en­cour­ag­ing forced child la­bor in its Thai­land- based sup­ply chains.

The prod­ucts, which we’ve been con­sum­ing prob­a­bly since ages is tainted with the mis­er­able, poor, mal­nour­ished, abused, and un­paid mi­grant child slaves’ blood and sweat. How does that sound to you?

Mi­nors un­der the age of 15 are forced to work for Nestlé’s co­coa farms, more than a decade af­ter the gi­ant food man­u­fac­turer promised to put an end to child slav­ery in its sup­ply chain.

Ivory Coast is the largest pro­ducer of co­coa in the world and the in­dus­try is eval­u­ated to be ap­prox­i­mately of worth £ 60 bil­lion per year. It is sad to know that it is also one of the ma­jor hubs for child slav­ery.

Nestlé an­nounced it was trans­form­ing it­self into a new era, which would lead to self­polic­ing of com­pany’s per­sonal sup­ply chain. The com­pany in­de­pen­dently dis­closed that cus­tomers were un­wit­tingly buy­ing Nestlé prod­ucts that were con­tam­i­nated with the cases of worst la­bor abuses.

The com­pany’s brief in­ves­ti­ga­tion, which con­tin­ued for a year con­firmed the re­ports by me­dia that Thai­land­based seafood in­dus­try is rid­dled with hu­man traf­fick­ing and forced child slav­ery.

Re­searchers from the Fair La­bor As­so­ci­a­tion, which was com­mis­sioned to in­ves­ti­gate rights of the work­ers in West African farms by Nestlé in 2013, found 7% child la­bor at the to­tal farms vis­ited on Ivory Coast.

Though FLA re­searchers dis­cov­ered Nestlé mak­ing sub­stan­tial ef­forts to ed­u­cate farm­ers about its com­pany’s code of con­duct, code aware­ness was found sig­nif­i­cantly in a low amount with farm­ers be­ing un­able to at­tend the ses­sions due to lack of time and in­ter­est. Re­searchers also found that farms be­long­ing to Nestlé lacked any type of sys­tem for age ver­i­fi­ca­tion for labors to pro­hibit the use of child slav­ery.

Al­le­ga­tions of work­ers’ rights ex­ploita­tion and child la­bor con­tinue to hound Nestlé since years. Hark­inEn­gel Pro­to­col was signed by Nestlé in 2001, which was a vol­un­tary ar­range­ment by politi­cians and mem­bers of the co­coa in­dus­try to work to­wards bring­ing an end to child la­bor.

Much to ev­ery­one’s sur­prise, ex­actly four years later, Terry Collingsworth, a prom­i­nent hu­man rights lawyer filed a class action law­suit against the Archer Daniels Mid­land, Cargill, and Nestlé, al­leg­ing that these giants of­fered sub­stan­tial as­sis­tance to co­coa plan­ta­tion own­ers who prac­ticed child slav­ery.

Off­set The Con­ve­nience of Will­ful Ig­no­rance

The le­gal im­per­a­tive for nu­mer­ous multi­na­tional giants to start se­ri­ously deal­ing with la­bor abuses in the field of their busi­ness op­er­a­tions is grow­ing. Leg­is­la­tion in the United States and the United King­dom re­quires big­ger or­ga­ni­za­tions to pub­lish yearly re­ports ad­dress­ing their ef­forts to main­tain their busi­ness model free of child la­bor and any kind of the slav­ery prac­ticed in the cor­po­ra­tion.

Cal­i­for­nia Trans­parency in Sup­ply Chains Act’s suc­cess has been un­even, but it cer­tainly has spawned a string of civil lit­i­ga­tion suits, with work­ers and con­sumers us­ing the leg­is­la­tion to hurl le­gal ac­tions against or­ga­ni­za­tions they ac­cuse of for­mu­lat­ing mis­guid­ing pub­lic state­ments on anti- slav­ery ini­tia­tives taken by them.

Ap­par­ently, Nestlé ap­prov­ing me­dia re­ports on its Thai­land- based sup­ply chain has been con­sid­ered as ground­break­ing dis­clo­sure by many. Nick Grono, who hap­pens to be the chief ex­ec­u­tive of Free­dom Fund, an NGO that has heav­ily in­vested in ini­tia­tives con­cern­ing anti- traf­fick­ing in Thai­land, be­lieves ad­mis­sion of Nestlé could act as a con­sid­er­able drive in ad­just­ing the pa­ram­e­ters of busi­ness ex­pec­ta­tions when it ar­rives at the ac­count­abil­ity of sup­ply chains.

In­tro­duc­ing dili­gence when it comes to main­tain­ing trans­parency within sup­ply chains is very im­por­tant. In the mod­ern age, the task of work­ing out whether the hu­man rights ex­ploita­tions are in­volved in the child slav­ery, prod­uct sourc­ing, or hu­man traf­fick­ing on the other end of the world is not dif­fi­cult at all. The world is rel­a­tively shrink­ing and or­ga­ni­za­tions have a fair share of re­spon­si­bil­i­ties to as­sure that any form of hu­man rights ex­ploita­tion isn’t tak­ing place.

The is­sue re­volv­ing around child slav­ery, hu­man traf­fick­ing, etc., is cer­tainly con­sid­ered by com­pa­nies. While com­pa­nies do care about their op­er­a­tions’ ethics and know the where­abouts, the ma­jor set­back oc­curs when they avoid ac­tive in­ves­ti­ga­tion of their sup­ply chains. Will­ful ig­no­rance is a con­cept, which com­pa­nies should pre­fer get­ting rid of.

IM­AGE: Child La­bor

IM­AGE: Child Slav­ery in Pak­istan

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