For as long as I can remember I’ve known that a Hershey’s bar is the world’s perfect food. There is no better snack, chocolate or means of sustaining what’s generally good in life than a little Kiss or Nugget.
Which is why it’s more than disheartening for me to read that there are those who are calling for a boycott of the Great American Chocolate Bar due to their continued use of child laborers in their West African cocoa farms.
Protesters took to the streets of New York City yesterday outside of Hershey’s giant store in Time Square to call on the public to shun the sweet goodness of Hershey because the company broke its promise from 10 years ago to stop using child laborers.
This leaves me with a bit of a dilemma. I love children, and I love chocolate. So what happens when the two clash improbably and impossibly?
Hershey’s is lagging behind its competitors in improving regulations for workers, demonstrators said, according to the New York Daily News.
“I think that it’s time to end all the empty promises,” said Tim Newman, an activist with the International Labor Rights Forum. “Right now we know that hundreds of thousands of kids in Ghana and the Ivory Coast are still working in hazardous conditions.”
Students from high schools in Brooklyn and New Jersey were among the protesters yelling, “Hershey’s: tastes good, feels bad.”
A Hershey’s spokesperson said the company has been committed for the past 50 years to improving the West African cocoa communities and has partnered with several charities to assist 200,000 cocoa farmers in the Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon and Liberia.
“We have helped develop more productive agricultural practices, build educational and community resources and eliminate exploitative labor practices,” he said. “Our focus in on the ground programs that promote sustainable livelihoods in West Africa.”
Unfair child labor practices aren’t just at issue abroad; there are also struggles in the United States to ensure children are treated and paid fairly at their jobs.
I hate the idea of young children working at all, or working hard for little money, but it sounds to me like Hershey’s it taking steps to make it right, even if the protesters say they aren’t directly addressing the concerns of unsafe labor practices.
Clearly I’m loathe to boycott something that brings me such great pleasure, even as it makes me sick to my stomach to think of little kids in unsafe or unfair conditions. But if you boycott one company for this, how can you not boycott others?
Were the companies who produced your sneakers or jeans any better in their labor practices? Do you boycott one company, none or all of them? Or am I just being a wuss for not wanting to give up my saving grace every day — a Hershey’s bar? And will a massive Hershey’s boycott mean that the families who send their kids off to work in the cocoa fields out of necessity will actually be worse off if production slows down? Which is worse?
Are you willing to boycott Hershey’s? How about every other major company accused of the same kind of unfair child labor practices?