The lawsuit says the companies failed to disclose at point-of-sale to consumers that popular chocolates are made with the worst forms of child labor as recognized by the UN, violating the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Act, which states “unfair methods of competition and unfair or deceptive acts or practices in the conduct of any trade or commerce are hereby declared unlawful”.
“Like Nestle, Mars and Hershey’s have failed to take action on this issue, despite clear knowledge of their support of the use of child and slave labor, and have also failed to inform consumers at point-of-sale that their purchases are supporting this supply chain linked directly to atrocious human rights violations,” said Steve Berman, managing partner of Hagens Berman.
Child Labor and Slave Labor in the Cocoa Industry
“Much of the world’s chocolate is quite literally brought to us by the back-breaking labor of child slaves,” the suit states, detailing that Although Mars’ and Hershey’s corporate business principles and supplier code prohibit both child and forced labor, the two companies are aware that cocoa beans from the Ivory Coast are produced using child labor, including the Worst Forms of Child Labor as recognized by the United Nations: the compulsory labor of trafficked children and the labor of children involving dangerous tools, transport of heavy loads, and exposure to toxic substances, i.e., hazardous work.
I contacted Hagens Berman and was told that monetary damages are not being requested. Instead, the desired outcome is to compel the companies to indicate, on their packaging and point–of–sale materials that the chocolate they are buying may have been made with child labor. These indicators would need to remain until the companies can prove that no illegal child labor was used in the growing or harvesting of the cocoa used. The suit was filed Massachusetts federal court, citing a violation of Massachusetts law. It's not clear if the notices would apply only to products destined for sale in Massachusetts.