Yesterday, we published a story concerning a very new consumer class action against Nestle. The allegations put forth in the complaint reference Nestle’s business practices, insofar that they are using slave labor and child labor when importing cocoa beans from suppliers in the Ivory Coast. You may view that article, in its entirety, here. After our original article was published, however, Nestle sent us a response to the suit, and what they thought of the matter at hand. Shortly after that, the law firm who filed the case, Hagens Berman of Seattle, gave us a statement, responding to Nestle’s defense. Interestingly enough, the chocolate maker did not think the budding consumer class action was anything less than frivolous, however, Nestle responds to something here that is of far greater importance than your usual consumer class action lawsuit. If true, these allegations would be a major blow to the Nestle and their umbrella companies, severely dictating the next steps of many of their subsidiaries worldwide, even going so far as to potentially alter the world’s economy.
A Nestle spokesperson quickly responded to our story, stating the following: “This lawsuit is a ‘carbon copy’ of one previously filed by the same law firm and dismissed by a California court. We believe this one will be dismissed, too. Consumer class actions are not the way to solve such a serious and complex issue as forced child labor. Regrettably, in bringing such lawsuits, class action lawyers are targeting the very organizations trying to fight forced labor. The use of forced child labor is unacceptable and we are committed to eradicating it from our supply chain. We continue to take dedicated action, working together with other stakeholders, to combat this global social problem.”
Hagens Berman Responds
Shortly after Nestle’s response, Managing Partner Steve Berman, of Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP, gave us his response to Nestle’s claims, stating the following: “Left to its own, Nestle would take no real action to relieve consumers of the burden of unknowingly supporting child labor in purchasing popular chocolate candy. In fact, in 2001, the chocolate industry – including Nestle – agreed to the Harkin-Engel Protocol and promised to eliminate the worst forms of child labor in the Ivory Coast by 2005. Nestle, and the other signatories, promised to work ‘wholeheartedly…to fulfill the letter and spirit of this Protocol, and to do so in accordance with the deadlines prescribed herein.’ However, the industry broke this promise repeatedly in a series of follow-up statements which postponed their deadline to act to 2008, to 2010, and now to 2020. We believe the court will uphold these cases and help shine a light on this ongoing atrocity. It is our hope that these suits will actually promote action on Nestle’s part.”
To note, the protocol Mr. Berman refers to is mentioned on page 9 of the lawsuit: The Chocolate Manufacturers Association of the United States of America signed the Protocol for the Growing and Processing of Cocoa Beans and their Derivative Products in a Manner that Complies with ILO Convention 182 Concerning the Prohibition and Immediate Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labor (“Harkin-Engel Protocol”).
What Happens Next?
Though it seems like a bit of cat and mouse, he said she said games at the moment, this lawsuit will eventually be underway. We plan to keep strict updates on this particular consumer class action through the entirety of its proceedings. If you have any questions, concerns, or comments about the Nestle lawsuit, we urge you to reach out to us. Please send an email to ConsiderTheConsumer@gmail.com, find us on Twitter or Facebook, or even connect with us directly on our website! We look forward to hearing from you all.
Editor’s note on the Nestle Slave Labor Lawsuit:
This piece is written about the recent Nestle Slave Labor Lawsuit, and a response by Nestle and Hagens Berman garnered by recent press covering the allegations. To note, in any class action, if you are considered eligible to be among the class of consumers described in the class action, you may eventually be able to participate in receiving any compensation the court may award. If you think this may be the case, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us and discuss your options.