Why target Hershey for labor rights abuses?
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Since 2001, major chocolate companies including Hershey have committed to eliminating abusive child labor, forced labor and trafficking in their cocoa supply chains. However, nine years later, these abuses have continued. In March, a new documentary exposed the continued trafficking of child labor from Mali to Cote d’Ivoire to work on cocoa farms and last summer, INTERPOL conducted a raid that identified scores of children who were victims of trafficking and forced labor in Cote d’Ivoire’s cocoa farms. Last Fall, the U.S. Department of Labor named cocoa from Cote d’Ivoire, the world’s largest cocoa producing country, on a list of goods produced by forced and child labor.
While some companies have agreed to various programs to trace their cocoa to the farm or cooperative and to begin to institute stronger labor standards for cocoa farmers, Hershey has lagged behind all of its competitors and has refused to agree to any such programs. (See page 9-12 of ILRF’s latest report on the cocoa industry.) Hershey has even consistently rejected shareholder resolutions requesting the company to provide even a basic level of transparent information about its cocoa.
Additionally, Hershey has also been restructuring its global manufacturing so that it pushes responsibility for the processing of its chocolate products to other companies. This process has had a negative consequence on workplace safety, job security and union membership among much of the workforce that produce Hershey products. (Check out this recent article for more information.)
As a result, consumers remain in the dark about where Hershey’s cocoa comes from and the conditions under which it is produced. Hershey is one of the largest chocolate companies in the country and is an iconic U.S. brand. Why then can it not use its considerable resources to track its global supply chain and take responsibility for ensuring decent conditions for its workers?
Join us in telling Hershey to increase transparency in its supply chain and ensure the protection of workers rights!
For more information, check out these recent reports and documents from ILRF:
- “Broken Hearts: A Review of Industry Efforts to Eliminate Child Labor in the Cocoa Industry” (2010)
- “The Cocoa Protocol: Success or Failure?” (2008)
- Letter of concern regarding industry “certification”
So where do Hershey’s holiday chocolate products come from?
Unfortunately, Hershey has not agreed to transparency measures in its global supply chain, but here is a general overview of how the company’s global production system works:
Cocoa: The main ingredient in chocolate products is cocoa. West Africa is the biggest regional producer of cocoa beans with Cote d’Ivoire being the largest global cocoa supplier. Cote d’Ivoire is also where some of the most egregious labor rights abuses in the cocoa industry occur. The cocoa is usually exported our of West Africa by three main trading companies: Cargill, Archer Daniels Midland and Barry Callebaut.
Processing: Processing of cocoa beans occurs in different places around the world. Many companies process cocoa beans in Europe while others have facilities in North America and Latin America.
Manufacturing: The chocolate products are ultimately made into the bars we see on shelves in our supermarkets in factories around the world. While Hershey used to be famous for its plants in Hershey, Pennsylvania, the company is increasingly sending production to other companies in the U.S. as well as Latin America. Some union jobs still remain in Hershey as well as other parts of the U.S., but many of the workers now manufacturing Hershey products are not protected by unions and many don’t have access to formal, permanent jobs. This process can have a negative impact on workers and consumers in a number of ways:
- Worker Safety: Last year, a worker died at a factory in Camden, New Jersey that was producing chocolate for Hershey. The worker was on a temporary contract, was hired by a temp agency and was given a minimal amount of safety training. By distancing itself from the production of its chocolate, Hershey is able to avoid responsibility for ensuring that safety regulations and proper training are provided for its workers.
- Product Safety: Similar to safety for workers in the plant, the outsourcing of production allows Hershey to avoid responsibility for the safety of its products to consumers. For example, in 2006, Hershey had to recall 25 different products made in Canada due to a salmonella outbreak. Food regulations allowed Hershey to avoid having to publicly disclose information about the Canadian supplier because there is a loophole that lets companies keep the sources of contamination secret if the ingredient was externally sourced – which applies to Hershey’s cocoa and many other ingredients.
- Worker Rights: Temporary workers who are often hired by outside agencies have little job security as well as lower wages and fewer benefits that permanent, unionized workers. Additionally, they do not have the ability to negotiate directly with Hershey. Workers who have no protections on the job and are desperate for employment are less likely to feel comfortable to report violations of workplace safety standards or blow the whistle when they see health standards being undermined which contributes to poor worker and consumer safety.
In order to take responsibility for its products, Hershey has to start by following its chocolate products down to where its cocoa is grown.
SEND AN E-MAIL TO HERSHEY HERE!