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Whole Foods Refuses to Hold Suppliers Accountable for Child Labor, Worker Rights Violations

  • Consumer, Labor Rights Groups, Teamsters Tell Whole Foods: Don't Support Child Labor Chocolate Maker
    Teamsters News, September 12, 2012

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Fair Trade & Social Justice page, Breaking The Chains page and our Appetite For a Change page.

(Washington D.C.) - Advocates against the exploitation of children by chocolate makers initiated a campaign today calling on Whole Foods Market (NYSE: WFM) to hold The Hershey Company (NYSE: HSY) - the manufacturer of Dagoba and Scharffenberger Chocolates - accountable for exploiting children for profit. The Organic Consumers Association, the International Labor Rights Forum, Global Exchange and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters are demanding that Whole Foods join a growing coalition of grocery stores urging Hershey to fully commit to using only child labor free cocoa produced under fair-labor standards.

In August, a coalition of forty-one independent natural food stores and co-ops called on the Hershey Company to meet the standard set by its competitors and fully commit to using ethically sourced cocoa. Unfortunately, Whole Foods and its supplier, United Natural Foods, Inc. (NASDAQ: UNFI), refused to sign the coalition's appeal.

About 35 percent of the world's chocolate is grown on small farms in the Ivory Coast. According to a U.S. Government-funded study, over 1.8 million children work in West Africa's cocoa industry. Many of these children are exposed to dangerous working conditions and some are even sold off to perform grueling labor on cocoa farms.

"We believe it's time for Whole Foods and UNFI to join other natural food stores in pointing out to Hershey that ethically sourcing a small amount of the company's overall chocolate, does not make up for continuing to be laggards among the large chocolate companies, nor does it erase the fact that most of Hershey's profits are earned at the expense of children," said Ryan Zinn, Campaign Director for the Organic Consumers Association. 

Hershey's failure to commit to purchase significant portions of ethically-sourced cocoa contrasts with the proactive commitments demonstrated by its major competitors. Mars and Ferrero, for instance, have committed to ensure 100 percent of their cocoa supply is ethically sourced by 2020. Nestle is working with the Fair Labor Association to examine its supply chain for child labor. And Kraft/Cadbury also has taken steps to certify one-quarter of its Cadbury Dairy Milk bars sold globally as Fairtrade.

"The Teamsters have supported the fight to end child labor in the cocoa industry for over a decade," said Tracey Thompson, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters Local 117. "Unfor- tunately it is not surprising that Whole Foods has turned a blind eye to the rogue conduct of its suppliers, after all Whole Foods is also unwilling to hold is supplier in Seattle, UNFI, accountable for violating workers' rights."

Consumers can join the campaign by clicking on the following link: www.LaborRights.org/wf

View the online Whole Foods petition by clicking here: www.LaborRights.org/wf

View the full text of the letter by clicking here: http://www.raisethebarhershey.org/food-coops- and-natural-grocer-sign-on-letter/ .

GLOBAL EXCHANGE is a membership-based international human rights organization dedicated to promoting social, economic and environmental justice around the world. www.GlobalExchange.org

INTERNATIONAL LABOR RIGHTS FORUM (ILRF) is an advocacy organization dedicated to achieving just and humane treatment for workers worldwide. www.LaborRights.org

THE ORGANIC CONSUMERS ASSOCIATION (OCA) is an online and grassroots non-profit 501(c)3 public interest organization campaigning for health, justice, and sustainability. The Organic Consumers Fund is a 501(c)4 allied organization of the Organic Consumers Association, focused on grassroots lobbying and legislative action. www.organicconsumers.org

INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF TEAMSTERS, founded in 1903, represents 1.4 million hardworking men and women in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico.  

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