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Posts Tagged ‘supreme court’

Photo: Aloha Feels Chocolate.
Many boutique candy companies are determined to do more than the giants about child labor. “There are over 27 million slaves in the world today. Of them, over 9 million are children,” says slavefreechocolate.org.

I’m sure you know I’m not going to focus on the dark side of anything, so as we dig out from Halloween chocolate created by name brands that have failed to end child labor, let’s start by mentioning companies that are more careful about sourcing.

I, too, buy the mini Trick-or-Treat bars available in the supermarket. But I also have a friend who loves getting chocolate on her birthday, and that is when I really focus on ethical brands. There’s a long list here. Taza is one I know. It’s headquartered in Somerville, Massachusetts.

The problem with chocolate seems to be that even companies seeking Fair Trade labels are often bamboozled by chocolate growers or aggregators on the ground. No doubt, it’s hard to get to the bottom of things unless you work directly with a grower.

In a February article from the Guardian, we learn that several young men who were once child slaves in Africa were hoping for a hearing in US courts. After all, big companies like Cargill, Mars, and Hershey are based here.

Oliver Balch writes, “Eight children who claim they were used as slave labour on cocoa plantations in Ivory Coast have launched legal action against the world’s biggest chocolate companies. They accuse the corporations of aiding and abetting the illegal enslavement of ‘thousands’ of children on cocoa farms in their supply chains.

“Nestlé, Cargill, Barry Callebaut, Mars, Olam, Hershey and Mondelēz have been named as defendants in a lawsuit filed in Washington DC by the human rights firm International Rights Advocates (IRA), on behalf of eight former child slaves who say they were forced to work without pay on cocoa plantations in the west African country.

“The plaintiffs, all of whom are originally from Mali and are now young adults, are seeking damages for forced labour and further compensation for unjust enrichment, negligent supervision and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

“It is the first time that a class action of this kind has been filed against the cocoa industry in a US court. Citing research by the US state department, the International Labour Organization and Unicef, among others, the court documents allege that the plaintiffs’ experience of child slavery is mirrored by that of thousands of other minors.

“Ivory Coast produces about 45% of the global supply of cocoa, a core ingredient in chocolate. The production of cocoa in west Africa has long been linked to human rights abuses, structural poverty, low pay and child labour.

“A central allegation of the lawsuit is that the defendants, despite not owning the cocoa farms in question, ‘knowingly profited’ from the illegal work of children. According to the submissions, the defendants’ contracted suppliers were able to provide lower prices than if they had employed adult workers with proper protective equipment.

“The lawsuit also accuses the companies – whose industry body is the World Cocoa Foundation – of actively misleading the public in the voluntary 2001 Harkin-Engel Protocol, characterized by the complainants as promising to phase out some child labour (‘the worst forms,’ in the protocol’s words). …

“In the legal claim, all eight plaintiffs describe being recruited in Mali through trickery and deception, before being trafficked across the border to cocoa farms in Ivory Coast. There, they were forced to work – often for several years or more – with no pay, no travel documents and no clear idea of where they were or how to get back to their families.” More at the Guardian, here.

Alas, at the Washington Post, here, you can read that the former child slaves were not granted standing by the courts, although the plaintiffs sued confidently “under the Alien Tort Statute, a 1789 law that allows federal district courts to hear ‘any civil action by an alien for a tort only, committed in violation of the law of nations or a treaty of the United States.’ ”

Robert Barnes and Peter Whoriskey reported in June, “The Supreme Court on Thursday said U.S. chocolate companies cannot be sued for child slavery on the African farms from which they buy most of their cocoa. But the court stopped short of saying such a lawsuit could never go forward.

“The court’s splintered decision was written by Justice Clarence Thomas. Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. dissented from the decision, saying it was premature to dismiss the suit.”

Alito, for goodness sake! This is why I don’t like blanket assumptions about what Supreme Court justices are thinking. You can say what position they are likely to take, but you can’t really know. And besides, it’s too depressing to assume you know.

Anyway, we’re back to Square One with chocolate and child labor.

Except that informed consumers can do their part: start asking themselves the right questions and paying a few more cents to be sure no children are harmed. After all, more chocolate-buying holidays are fast approaching.

Photo: jbdodane/Alamy
A sign warns against child labor in cocoa production in Ghana.

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I often think that malls today are wasted space. Public places sheltered from the elements, they could be used so much better than they are. When Suzanne was 18 months or so, East View Mall was my favorite place for having her work off steam. She loved toddling up and down the aisles and looking at all the sights. Everyone fussed over her, which meant her sometimes wall-climbing stay-at-home mom enjoyed much-needed adult conversation.

Lately, if outdoor walking is too wet or icy, I may choose to take my morning walk in Providence Place. I think other people could consider the mall for walking and toddler entertainment. And malls themselves could promote more uses since they must now compete with online shopping and a renewed preference for small boutiques. Cities could help malls fund certain public activities.

I was quite surprised on my Friday walk to find a traveling exhibition of elaborate Lego creations in Providence Place. Lego is advertising itself while also sharing a little history of government in the United States.

So as unnerving as it was to see our beloved Independence Hall surrounded by flashy clothing stores and run-amok consumerism, I’d rather feel the inspirational vibes from Independence Hall there than not.

In addition to Philadelphia’s most beloved landmark, note the Supreme Court, the Statue of Liberty, and a gigantic recreation of the Rhode Island statehouse. These photos represent only a sample of what is there until the show moves on to another state capital. Meanwhile, there is also a nice Lego play area for kids to make their own constructions.

(Isn’t it funny how a Lady Liberty made of Legos makes my fuzzy photography doubly pixilated?)

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Juliette Kayyem,  assistant secretary for intergovernmental affairs in the United States Department of Homeland Security, often writes op-eds for the Boston Globe. Her piece today is on new polling by the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies and the Abu Dhabi Gallup Center. An interesting finding of the poll is that among different religious groups in the United States, American Jews are more likely to see Muslim Americans as loyal to the United States.

“Jewish Americans are much more likely than any other non-Muslim faith to see US Muslims as loyal. Eighty percent of Jewish Americans have trust in Muslim Americans as Americans. (Only 56 percent of Protestants and Mormons said the same.) Muslims and Jews are the most likely to believe that Muslim Americans have no sympathy for Al Qaeda.”

Kayyem sees common ground here, and she moves on to what William Brandeis said in 1905  as the first Jew named to the Supreme Court. His paper “What Loyalty Demands,” she opines, is a powerful argument for the belief that adherence to one’s own religious values is “the greatest form of fidelity to America.”

Read the article here.

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