Tim Newman, Campaigns Director, International Labor Rights Forum
Just days before World Day against Child Labor, hundreds of youth from New York City gathered with labor, environmental, social justice and faith-based organizations to call on Hershey to stop child labor, forced labor and trafficking in its cocoa supply chain. Ten years after Hershey commited to ending these abuses in its chocolate, these concerned consumers called on Hershey to "raise the bar" for responsible cocoa sourcing by starting to source Fair Trade Certified cocoa. (Check out photos from the rally here and video here!)
The rally was organized by ILRF along with Global Exchange and Green America as part of the Raise the Bar Hershey campaign. As the campaign has documented, Hershey is lagging behind its competitors in committing to source cocoa that has been certified by independent third parties to comply with international labor rights standards. The consequences of Hershey's lack of responsible sourcing requirements is the tragic exploitation of children.
As part of its four and a half year independent assessment of company efforts to address this abuse in West Africa, Tulane University found that there are still hundreds of thousands of children involved in hazardous work conditions. The research team's top recommendation for chocolate companies is "to scale up its consumption -- and publicly commit to new procurement targets -- of product certified cocoa, specifically in the U.S. market." The rally at Hershey's Times Square store called on Hershey to do just that by starting to use Fair Trade Certified cocoa.
Hundreds of young people from second grade through high school, from Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklyn and New Jersey brought signs, t-shirts, energy and passion to call on Hershey to stop child labor in their favorite chocolate products. In fact, there were so many people who wanted to come out to express their views to Hershey that half of the rally participants had to move to the sidewalk on the opposite side of the street because the sidewalk and street around the Hershey store were overflowing.
At the rally, students from St. Benedictine Academy in Elizabeth, New Jersey performed a rap they wrote about child labor in cocoa (you can see a different recording of them performing the rap here). One of those students, Ariana Taveras explained why it was important to her to attend the rally on the Huffington Post. They also made a great video including footage from the rally which is on the CNN Freedom Project website here.
Representatives from the sponsoring organizations were also joined by the New York based band Left on Red, students and teachers from New York and California and the "Raging Grannies" in speaking out against labor rights abuses in the chocolate industry. Check out this video of Left on Red performing at the end of the rally:
Lee Cutler, secretary treasurer of the New York State United Teachers union (NYSUT), spoke about the need for children to be working in school in West Africa and not in cocoa fields. Human rights advocate Kerry Kennedy, who brought her daughter with her to the rally, gave a stirring speech calling for an end to abuses in the cocoa industry. Check out a video of Ms. Kennedy at the rally below.
The rally was an inspiring reminder that thousands of people across the country are taking action in their communities to call for change in the chocolate industry. The energy and commitment I felt among the rally participants, especially young people, was inspiring. The movement calling on Hershey to raise the bar and stop child labor is growing rapidly everyday. Ms. Kennedy summed up what many people are doing across the country when she led the crowd in a rollicking chorus of chanting: "Tell your friends! Tell your neighbors! Don't buy Hershey's child labor!"
There are so many ways that you can do just that and stand up against labor rights abuses in the cocoa industry right now:
- Call Hershey and tell this company to stop child labor and start using Fair Trade cocoa;
- Send an e-mail to Hershey;
- Collect petitions to Hershey in your community;
- Host a screening of The Dark Side of Chocolate;
- Join the "We Want More from our S'mores" summer action!
Most importantly, if we really want this campaign to grow and make sure that Hershey commits to ending exploitation in its products, we need continued support. Please help us to continue to organize major events like this rally by supporting the Raise the Bar Hershey campaign here.