Hi Reddit,

Thank you for highlighting this important issue on r/news!

As founder and Executive Director of the International Rights Advocates, and before that, between 1989 and 2007, General Counsel and Executive Director of International Labor Rights Forum, I have been at the forefront of every major effort to hold corporations accountable for failing to comply with international law or their own professed standards in their codes of conduct in their treatment of workers or communities in their far flung supply chains.

After doing this work for several years and trying various ways of cooperating with multinationals, including working on joint initiatives, developing codes of conduct, and creating pilot programs, I sadly concluded that most companies operating in lawless environments in the global economy will do just about anything they can get away with to save money and increase profits. So, rather than continue to assume multinationals operate in good faith and could be reasoned with, I shifted my focus entirely, and for the last 25 years, have specialized in international human rights litigation.

The prospect of getting a legal judgement along with the elevated public profile of a major legal case (thank you, Reddit!) gives IRAdvocates a concrete tool to force bad actors in the global economy to improve their practices.

Representative cases are: Coubaly et. al v. Nestle et. al, No. 1:21 CV 00386 (eight Malian former child slaves have sued Nestle, Cargill, Mars, Hershey, Barry Callebaut, Mondelez and Olam under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act [TVPRA] for forced child labor and trafficking in their cocoa supply chains in Cote D’Ivoire); John Doe 1 et al. v. Nestle, SA and Cargill, Case No. CV 05-5133-SVW (six Malian former child slaves sued Nestle and Cargill under the Alien Tort Statute for using child slaves in their cocoa supply chains in Cote D’Ivoire); and John Doe 1 et. al v. Apple et. al, No. CV 1:19-cv-03737(14 families sued Apple, Tesla, Dell, Microsoft, and Google under the TVPRA for knowingly joining a supply chain for cobalt in the DRC that relies upon child labor).

If you’d like to learn more, visit us at: http://www.iradvocates.org/

Ask me anything about corporate accountability for human rights violations in the global economy:

-What are legal avenues for holding corporations accountable for human rights violations in the global economy? -How do you get your cases? -What are the practical challenges of representing victims of human rights violations in cases against multinationals with unlimited resources? -Have you suffered retaliation or threats of harm for taking on powerful corporate interests? -What are effective campaign strategies for reaching consumers of products made in violation of international human rights norms? -Why don’t more consumers care about human rights issues in the supply chains of their favorite brands? -Are there possible long-term solutions to persistent human rights problems?

I have published many articles and have given numerous interviews in various media on these topics. I attended Duke University School of Law and have taught at numerous law schools in the United States and have lectured in various programs around the world. I have personally visited and met with the people impacted by the human rights violations in all of my cases.

Proof: https://imgur.com/a/u18x6Ma



Comments: 1316 • Responses: 53  • Date: 

flekkzo932 karma

Are there any beloved brands that have a terrible supply chain that has gotten pretty much no major bad press?

On the flip side, are there any brands portrayed as terrible in media (social or otherwise) when in reality they are among the most responsible?

terryatIRAdvocates2026 karma

Sure. We sued Tesla in the cobalt battery for EV's case because their supply chain was more easily observed and documented because California law requires CA companies to disclose suppliers in their supply chain. This highlights disclosure laws are helpful in this work to identify companies' suppliers and celebrate those that do good work. ALL companies that are making EV's are using the same cobalt mined by children in the DRC, that includes BMW, Daimler (makes Mercedes), Ford, GM, and Chrysler. We hope to be able to add them in a future complaint.

We continue to look for companies that are responsible so that we can promote them and work with them so that we can put pressure on companies that are not doing the right things. Unfortunately, I am not aware of any large companies with international supply chains that are acting responsibly.

elus1451 karma

Unfortunately, I am not aware of any large companies with international supply chains that are acting responsibly.

That's depressing.

terryatIRAdvocates468 karma

Yes, it certainly is but please do what you can to help solve the problems. When we come together, there is greater hope that we can change things for the better.

iwearchacos61 karma

What about companies like Patagonia and things. Where part of their message is being a company focus on people and supply chain. Are most of them real or fake?

terryatIRAdvocates190 karma

It's hard to generalize when there are so many companies, particularly in the garment and shoe industries, that are making claims about what they are doing. I personally believe Patagonia is doing a good job of policing its supply chain and has taken steps in the past to address problems discovered, including child labor. I wish I could hand you a list of all of the "good" companies but we don't have the resources to make an accurate list. As previously mentioned, we do have a list of ethical chocolate companies and I hope that someone can create similar lists in other sectors.

Sir_Barkalot35 karma

You’re a hero and a fast typer Terry! Thank you for answering our questions. Just to follow up on this. I spend so much time doing research around ethnical companies and I still feel like I’m not making the right choices. For example, Everlane is labeled as ethical, but there is no evidence or third party confirmation to really show that they are. They just say that they are. Could they be sued for that?

terryatIRAdvocates108 karma

The only way companies making false claims about whether they are ethical can be sued is if they make a clear false statement intended to mislead consumers. That might be the case with Everlane, but that would require an investigation. We currently have a case against Nestle and Mars for falsely claiming their cocoa is child labor free. The case is just getting started and I hope we are able to set a precedent as I expect other companies will resort to misleading assertions.

Fall_of_Atlas3 karma

I'm not advocating for child slavery, but if they can't access the cobalt from the congo then there is ~70% less for more EVs and makes them significantly more expensive. Doesn't it make more sense to try to campaign for global action be done about the DRC human rights violations or to entirely ban the import of any product containing cobalt sourced in the DRC?

terryatIRAdvocates6 karma

I absolutely am not advocating for a ban on cobalt from the DRC. The adult miners and entire communities in the DRC depend upon cobalt mining and other minerals being mined there. We are advocating that Tesla, Apple, Dell, Google and Microsoft, some of the most wealthy companies that have ever existed, use their vast wealth and power to fix the situation and make mining save for adult workers who are paid enough to keep their children in school and out of the mines.

Mockingjay32440 karma

Is there any hope of fighting Nestle? Is there anything I can do to stop their crimes? They own everything!

terryatIRAdvocates630 karma

Well, it might be hard to do this, but I think it's important to focus on one serious Nestle crime at a time. We have sued them twice for harvesting cocoa using enslaved children. Both cases are still pending and I'm optimistic that we will ultimately prevail. Nestle will certainly use its power and resources to delay as long as possible accountability for its admitted use of child labor. They acknowledged in 2001 when they signed the Harkin-Engle protocol that child labor was a serious problem in their cocoa supply chain. Since doing that they have employed a delay strategy by giving themselves three unilateral extensions of time. We need to win one of our cases so that Nestle can no longer be in charge of when it is going to stop profiting from child labor.

In the meantime, we are asking everyone to contact the company directly or social media and make clear that you will not purchase ANY Nestle product until they keep their promise to stop using child labor to harvest their cocoa. Once we solve that problem, I'm happy to work with others to select another Nestle crime to focus on together.

octnoir55 karma

that you will not purchase ANY Nestle product

So does that include Nestle base products or Nestle owned products? And does that include Nestle suppliers, retailers and distributers for Nestle, and all the partnerships that Nestle have?

This image gets shared a lot but it is worth noting that the revenue and income streams for large companies are very diversified with all the partnerships and inter connectivity and the image actually undersells Nestle's reach. It feels a bit useless to ban yourself from Coffeemate, and pick up another creamer that is 'store brand' but it turns out that store brand is from Nestle, just repackaged (this happens all the time and it is very hard for the average consumer to figure out what is an ethical product and what isn't).

Is there something a customer can do that is more effective? A high value product from Nestle whos sales you can hurt and really hit their bottom line with? Or an entire laundry list of alternatives for all Nestle partners and owners that is feasible for your average Joe so they don't end up having no options for 30 miles? Or something else like volunteering?

terryatIRAdvocates107 karma

When I say we are working to solve one problem at a time, in this case child slavery in cocoa harvesting, that does not mean that solutions should not be broad based. I think it is entirely appropriate to tell Nestle that you will not purchase ANY Nestle product as long as they are profiting from enslaved children in their cocoa production. It's not our job as consumers to figure out Nestle's complex structure and income stream. We can as consumers say we hold Nestle SA, the parent company, responsible in all respects for the child slavery in cocoa production.

Kaio_14 karma

so you're saying that in two decades, 20 years, absolutely no conclusive judicial decisions were handed down whatsoever?

and why can't they get a 4th unilateral extension? why not a 5th? why not a 10th extension 70 god damn years from now?

terryatIRAdvocates44 karma

Yes. In fact, the first case we filed against Nestle and Cargill in 2005 was just argued in the U.S. Supreme Court on December 1st, 2020. We are hopeful that a resolution is close. Yes, the companies can continue to give themselves extensions of time in perpetuity, which is why I have filed my legal cases against them.

YendorWons7 karma

Why are you optimistic that the lawsuits against nestle will prevail?

terryatIRAdvocates41 karma

I am optimistic because we have excellent evidence of child slavery in Nestle's supply chain, Nestle has admitted that it uses child labor when it claimed in 2001 that it was going to stop the practice, and finally, our claims fit perfectly within the laws prohibiting the use of forced child labor.

SirEntington4 karma

How has the sale of their candy business to ferrero effected this lawsuit? Similarly, Nestle has just sold their water brands to a private equity group, so i imagine any lawsuits regarding their water business could be effected as well?

terryatIRAdvocates6 karma

Whether or not Nestle sells a business that is using child slavery will not affect their liability at the time the slavery occurred. If Ferrero, assumed liability in the purchase, that's between them and Nestle. This would mean that Ferrero would pay the judgement we would get against Nestle, but either way, a judgement should stop either company from continuing to enslave children for profit.

molotovPopsicle389 karma

What US companies do you see as being the current biggest offenders?

terryatIRAdvocates1069 karma

Virtually all companies, unfortunately, with a global supply chain have serious issues of human rights violations. Because we have limited time and resources, I have been focused on what I think are the worst offenders, companies that profit from enslaved children or from children who are forced to performed extremely hazardous work. My current work involves the cocoa sector and cobalt mining. In cocoa, we have sued Nestle, Cargill, Mars, Hershey, Mondelez, Barry Callebaut, and Olam. These companies are among those who continue to profit from enslaved children who harvest their cocoa and perform extremely hazardous work such as using machetes and applying dangerous chemicals. In the cobalt case, we have sued Apple, Tesla, Dell, Microsoft, and Google because they are knowingly participating with cobalt suppliers that use forced child labor under conditions where child miners are regularly killed and maimed. I think these are the worst offenders of human rights in these sectors, not only because of the horrific conditions that child workers face, but because these companies are extremely wealthy and powerful and could easily work with us to solve the problem. Instead, they hire giant law firms and public relation firms to defend and delay their ability to profit from these horrific practices.

Cethinn200 karma

I may be wrong but isn't the DRC responsible for something like 90+% of the world's cobalt supply? If so, are there any batteries made that use cobalt that don't use child slave labor? I'm 100% in favor of fixing it but this one in particular seems to require a more hands on fix to the issues in the DRC specifically. The alternative being just don't use cobalt until they stop which seems to be a non-starter.

terryatIRAdvocates82 karma

Most of the world's cobalt, around 70%, comes from the DRC where the cobalt mined by children is mixed with the other cobalt. Until the companies take the appropriate measures to stop using forced child labor to mine cobalt I don't think anyone can claim that cobalt from the DRC is child labor free. Other cobalt comes from some western U.S. mines and from Australia, but it is not nearly enough to meet the demands of the tech sector.

the_best_jabroni178 karma

I am a trades person in an industry where unions are still strong. I hear many times from many people that unions are not really needed anymore as there are pretty comprehensive federal and provincial/state laws to protect workers. What are your opinions on unions and global unions? Do you think promoting unions in third world countries is an option or will this be spun as some socialist agenda (like it usually does) and end in violence?

terryatIRAdvocates339 karma

Thanks for raising this point. I come from a trade union background and feel very strongly that legitimate unions that are able to exercise their rights to associate and bargain collectively are one of the few realistic long-term possibilities for improving worker rights around the world. For decades, the Cold War and nationalism have prevented workers from around the world in uniting to work together against the common problem, companies that will break the law and do whatever they can get away with to increase profits in their global operations. We are even seeing in the United States the negative impact when unions start to disappear. For example, Amazon, one of the richest companies in the world is fighting hard to keep unions out of their warehouses. Is this based on principle? No, they want to maximize their profits when they could clearly afford to pay workers a livable wage and provide reasonable working conditions. I hope before they go extinct U.S. and European unions, while they still have resources, view it as a priority to link up with workers in other countries, including in the developing world, to ensure there is no place companies can go to escape reasonable legal requirements to comply with fundamental human rights.

justhere4laughs119128 karma

Why is this the first im hearing about this? How does a story like this get buried?

terryatIRAdvocates209 karma

Great question! Almost every time I speak about these issues most of the audience is shocked to hear the realities of the global economy. The main reason is that the companies who are profiting from horrendous human rights violations have powerful lobbyists and public relations firms presenting the counter narrative widely. We are facing a huge challenge to get the truth out because major media companies appear to be concerned about offending some of their largest advertisers. We are dong everything we can with limited resources to communicate to consumers. Recently, we have started to use social media in creative ways and seem to be making progress with people power - we are very open to suggestions on what else we can be doing to reach consumers on a broad basis with limited resources!

anti_0037 karma

Can we get a Kurzgesagt on Child Labor? That would reach a pretty wide audience... EDIT typo

terryatIRAdvocates37 karma

We have recently started using Tic Toc and there has been a lot of interest there. We will look into how we might be able to use other forms of video media. Sounds like a great idea!

waddapfurfee86 karma

Do you think there are any companies out there that could eventually end up taking Nestlé's place, for the better?

terryatIRAdvocates383 karma

For years I have been telling all of the large cocoa companies that if any one of them had the ethical courage to break from the pack and work with us to create a model system that is fully transparent and allows people to have confidence that their chocolate was not made by child labor they would become the most profitable and widely respected chocolate company in the world. I am still waiting for a company to accept this challenge. I feel certain, however, that we are right and that consumers would reward a company that does the right thing.

Rainbow_Dash_RL7 karma

Are there any smaller companies using ethical cocoa sources?

terryatIRAdvocates55 karma

Yes, here is a great resource! https://www.slavefreechocolate.org/

terryatIRAdvocates18 karma

Yes! Here is a great list: https://www.slavefreechocolate.org/

Cornographicmaterial86 karma

How are we supposed to have an honest discussion about how corporations have worked together to consolidate political power and stifle dissent, when we are being told anyone who looks too far into this kind of corruption is a “conspiracy theorist” and shouldn’t be taken seriously?

How do we talk objectively about the oligarchy when they are the ones in control of the media and messages that we see?

terryatIRAdvocates137 karma

The answer is to focus on objectively verifiable facts. There is a huge difference between saying Nestle is an evil company and that it uses slaves and documenting that Nestle is profiting from enslaved children and has refused for over 20 years to keep it's promise made in the Harkin-Engle protocol in 2001 to stop this practice. During this time Nestle has spent tremendous resources on lawyers and public relations to create the impression to the public that it is working to end its use of enslaved children. Nestle and the other cocoa companies have given themselves three unilateral extensions of time to delay their promise to voluntarily stop profiting from child labor. They now claim that by 2025 they will reduce by 70% their use of child labor in their cocoa supply chain. They could stop TOMORROW if this were a mandatory requirement but they've managed to convince lawmakers and the public that they can be trusted to keep their promise even thought they have for over 20 years failed to do so. These are objective facts. I don't need to embellish, create conspiracy theories, use derogatory language. These are facts from which we should be able to have a discussion about what IS NOW NEEDED to finally end the abhorrent practice of profiting from enslaved children.

Cephelopodia11 karma

"Working to end the use of enslaved children" sounds too much like, "Working to stop the murder we're currently in the process of committing."

I mean...they could just, stop doing that.

Or are they too weak to control themselves?

terryatIRAdvocates26 karma

Well, my theory is that they must be making a lot of money from using enslaved children to harvest their cocoa because they are spending millions of dollars on lawyers, lobbyists, and PR firms so that they can continue using child labor. Yes, they could stop but they can't resist the extra money they must be making. We are trying everything we can in the way of legal avenues to make them stop.

BreAkmEpleSae53 karma

How can we help you fight these hateful corporations?

terryatIRAdvocates77 karma

THANK YOU for asking this important question.

*The first thing I would ask is for you and other consumers to be informed and let companies know that you're not going to purchase their products if there is even a question that they are abusing workers and violating their fundamental human rights. For information about worst abusers of human rights in the global economy, go to our website http://www.iradvocates.org/.

*You have to be an educated consumer which requires us to dig a little bit to evaluate false claims often made by bad companies. For example, all of the cocoa companies that I have sued that are using enslaved children to harvest their cocoa, including Nestle, Mars, Hershey and Cargill, falsely claim that they do not use child labor. They are getting public cover by using fair trade and rainforest alliance to create the impression that these entities are monitoring to prevent the use of child labor. This is simply not true but is an example of how so called "reputable" companies will go through great lengths to mislead consumers rather than work to fix the problem. If you do want to purchase truly ethical chocolate go to https://www.slavefreechocolate.org/ for a list of companies that are doing things right to produce ethical and delicious chocolate. Like slave-free chocolate, there are other independent verification and monitoring systems that can give you more confidence that the products you are purchasing were not produced in violations of fundamental human rights.

*You can join IRA and contribute to help us lead the fight against multinational companies that are violating human rights. As you can imagine, it is extremely challenging for a small human rights advocacy group to take on the virtually unlimited resources of major corporations with their armies of lawyers, lobbyists and public relations experts.

*Contact your representatives in Congress and state government and urge them to support meaningful legislation that would require full disclosure of supply chains and serious consequences for doing business with suppliers that are participating in fundamental human rights violations.

*If you are an investor (shoutout to r/wallstreetbeats) make sure that you are only supporting companies that can objectively demonstrate that they are not profiting in any way from fundamental human rights violations.

IncredibleBulk24 karma

Omglob I'm so happy Compartes is on the list. Their matcha white chocolate bar is so wonderful

terryatIRAdvocates5 karma

Great! Glad to hear!

brettorlob51 karma

I'm in poverty, I have a sweet tooth and I love hot cocoa. Even if I'm willing to spend marginally more for something marked as"fair trade" I'm driving up the value of the commodity itself. This leaves me three distinct choices; getting my sugar elsewhere, spending marginally more for quasi "ethical" Cocoa, or directly benefiting some of the worst labor abusers in the world by buying their product.

Given those beliefs are correct (please correct me if they're not) how much benefit do workers get from my choice to buy selectively sourced cocoa (and coffee for that matter)?

terryatIRAdvocates94 karma

This is an excellent question, that affects millions of people. I'm sorry to be the person revealing this, but most programs like Fair Trade and Rainforest Alliance are virtually fraudulent. (https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2019/10/23/chocolate-companies-say-their-cocoa-is-certified-some-farms-use-child-labor-thousands-are-protected-forests/) The main issues are that these types of organizations do not perform independent monitoring nor do they follow up to verify the use of any premium funds that are distributed for cocoa or coffee. Many farmers have complained to me that they never see the premium funds because of corruption.

What I can recommend is to look for cocoa and coffee and other commodities that are produced by independent companies that have in some way been certified by a legitimate independent organization. For example, (https://www.slavefreechocolate.org/), has a list of chocolate companies that have been thoroughly vetted to ensure that they are producing ethical chocolate and that they are treating the cocoa farmers fairly and are compensating them well. I agree with you that these companies do largely charge more for their chocolate than products made by Nestle, Hershey or Mars using enslaved children. My solution is to enjoy ethical chocolate and consume a little less. Chocolate produced by enslaved children IS extremely expensive.

bringsmemes42 karma

you are a awesome human

what is your opinion about the actual human and environmental cost of "green energy", due to china's near stranglehold on lithium/cobalt?

terryatIRAdvocates89 karma

Thanks very much. You may know that I have sued Tesla because the cobalt it uses in its high tech EV's is partially mined by children in the DRC who are routinely killed or maimed. That is the dirty secret of EVs that needs to be widely known. This is not a green product until all aspects of its supply chain respect human rights, the planet, and uplift the workers associated with it. No one really knows what goes on in the cobalt refining plants of China because they are not easily accessible but I have personally met and now represent in court children who were maimed mining cobalt for Tesla and other high tech companies. These extremely rich and powerful companies are presenting themselves as green, futuristic, woke companies but they are doing nothing to help the children who are literally dying to provide cobalt. This must stop.

supereightyfive42 karma

Is there some sort of long term and all encompassing solution in the works so that human rights are protected throughout the supply chain? Is there something you wish more people knew in regards to being a consumer in the US?

terryatIRAdvocates137 karma

There are no all encompassing solutions in the works. The reason is every time someone proposes a good idea to achieve human right compliance in global supply chains, the multinational companies band together and kill such proposals. For example: In 2001, human rights activists including me managed to get passed in the congress a law that wold ban the importation of products made by child labor. When the bill reached the senate, the major cocoa companies including Nestle, Mars, Hershey, and Cargill killed the bill and replaced it with a voluntary protocol - the Harkin Engle protocol. This voluntary initiative has allowed the companies to continue harvesting cocoa with child slaves because there are no enforceable provisions to require them to stop.

There are proposals on the shelf that would make serious progress possible, including putting a social clause in major trade agreements that would require countries and companies to comply with international standards of human rights. Such proposals are viewed as not being politically viable but that does not mean we should not continue trying to enact effective proposals.

The main thing that I'd like consumers to know, is HOW POWERFUL THEY REALLY ARE. The companies will change their practices in a moment if they thought that consumers are going to reject their products because they are made in violation of human rights. Nestle, Hershey, Cargill and Mars are still using child slaves to harvest their cocoa RIGHT AS I TYPE THIS because consumers have not yet in large numbers demanded that they stop.

thundercool10 karma

Obviously, a huge issue is consumer awareness. So, how realistic would it be to get a law passed that forced someone along the supply chain to indicate on the product that child slavery and/or other human rights violations were involved in the manufacturing of that product?

terryatIRAdvocates11 karma

It's not going to be easy, but that doesn't mean it's not worth fighting for. There are serious proposals in the United States, the EU and in several European countries individually. I think we will see someone break through and get a meaningful due diligence law passed.

NoPowerOverMe40 karma

1.Are "fair trade", "direct trade" and "ethically sourced" companies actually better or are those labels the human right's equivalent of green washing? 2. It seems you are concentrating on the cocoa supply chains. I've heard coffee, tea, and sugar, along with cocoa, are the worst offenders in terms of slavery. Are there are other industries that are just as heinous? Thank you for your time and your work.

terryatIRAdvocates50 karma

I mentioned this in one of the previous threads but most labeling initiatives are not legitimate and are in fact a form of green washing. You are correct in naming cocoa, coffee, tea and sugar as among the worst commodities because it is common for child labor to be involved in their harvesting or production. A few others include cotton, cobalt and other minerals mined in the DRC. Many other industries such as garment and shoe production, as well as the beauty industry with cosmetic production are very exploitative, but it is commodity production and mining that have high risk of using child labor.

alxwx35 karma

Hi Terry, great cause: big fan. I work in several startups, bordering on supply chain activities - do you have any advice for small companies; who don’t have the resources to deep-dive their own supply chain; to ‘do the best they can’ with respect to ensuring their supply chain operates in accordance with human rights: down several tiers? Thanks! And good luck in your pursuit

terryatIRAdvocates30 karma

Thanks for your question - and you're in a great position to be active in helping to improve supply chain human rights violations. I would start by asking any company that you are dealing with to provide you with their internal auditing reports. Virtually every company with a supply chain knows exactly what is going on at all levels of it. They simply refuse to share this information with the public. You and those with small companies are in a unique position as a participant in that space to demand accurate information. If any potential supplier wants your business, it should be able to ensure you that it is not engaging in unethical or illegal activity.

AsicsGirl26 karma

Were there ever attempts by these big companies to intimidate you personally in order to stop what you're doing?

terryatIRAdvocates54 karma

I have been offered bribes by companies to go away, and I have been threatened with violence on several occasions. The one form of retaliation that is becoming more common is that multinational companies bring cases against public interest lawyers for defamation or RICO claims. Drummond Company, a U.S. coal mining company operating in Colombia, has sued me for defamation and RICO for truthfully saying that the company is funding the AUC'S war crimes in Colombia. This tactic is designed to distract me and other public interest lawyers from doing our work and exposing the crimes of multinational corporations. Thankfully, truth is a defense, to the frivolous claims Drummond brought against me so I am confident that this nuisance will soon be finished.

AsicsGirl10 karma

Wow. That's so low. But then again, what does one expect. Thank you for doing this important work! The world would be a much nicer place if there was more people like you.

terryatIRAdvocates9 karma

Thank you for your kind words.

Tunderbar122 karma

What would you like to see the west do with regards to human rights violations ongoing in China?

terryatIRAdvocates34 karma

The only real weapon that we have realistically to address human rights violations in China is to use the power of the consumer. We need people to understand that purchasing products that may have been manufactured by forced labor or groups that have been persecuted by the Chinese government allows those violations to continue. We hope now that trade policy can be activated by the Biden administration to have these consumer tools available on a larger scale like prohibiting U.S. contractors from purchasing products that may have been manufactured in China with serious human rights violations in the supply chain. China offers cheap goods but in terms of human rights, they are very expensive.

ihaveacutebutt42021 karma

How do you balance or replenish your emotional well-being to continue doing the work that you do?

Does the evilness and greed of bad faith actors ever drag you down to a low point, and if so, what strategies do you have to come back swinging?

terryatIRAdvocates48 karma

Thanks for asking about my well-being. Thankfully, I am a very optimistic person and I believe that what we are doing makes a difference so that keeps me going. I do need to be conscious of stress and burnout so I make sure to prioritize every day that I take of myself. For stress reduction, I run or hike every day with my dog Reina, and try to go snowboarding whenever I can. I am very lucky that I have a happy family and we take care of each other and have a safe place to be every day. Combating evil and greedy corporations actually motivates me and helps me to keep working to try to stop them.

cyril020 karma

How do you deal with the realities that child labour laws in the developing world often just end up meaning children turn to prostitution to help their families survive? Is child labour not the lesser of the evils in many cases?

terryatIRAdvocates54 karma

This is a common misconception that the choices are child labor or children being forced into prostitution or other risky endeavors. This is a false choice. The other option is that the wealthy and powerful multinationals that are buying the products made by child labor in the developing world pay adult workers a living wage so that they and their families can lead a descent life and their children can go to school rather than to work. The companies that benefit from child labor encourage this false choice so that they can perhaps feel that they are saving children from prostitution when in fact they are depriving children of an education and their very childhood.


Any brand name you recognize in your every day life that DOESN'T enslave children?

terryatIRAdvocates29 karma

Most companies don't enslave children. The main area where that is a current problem is cocoa, coffee, and other commodity production in Africa. Other industries such as the garment and shoe manufacturers engage in extreme forms of exploitation of their workers, but they don't take the next step of enslavement. The workers in these factories are pretty close to the line though, in that they are "wage slaves". This means they earn barely enough to feed themselves to show up to work the next day. There is much to do to improve conditions for workers in virtually every international supply chain.

HoloMJThrowaway12 karma

What slavery-free chocolate brands would you recommend?

terryatIRAdvocates15 karma

There are great ones you can find here! https://www.slavefreechocolate.org/

JJHinge9 karma

How can we get American / European laypeople to actually care about these things? Seems like even people who care about social justice causes will gladly boycott business like Chik Fil A that lobby against human rights, but turn right around and drink their Nestle water with a pack of M&M's while wearing all Nike clothes. When I try to talk to almost anyone about how just in the last few decades slavery has become omnipresent in the consumer supply chain, it's as if it all goes in one ear and out the other and they want to turn it back to more politically correct talking points. And frankly, I care way more about policing slavery than policing domestic social issues, so it's especially frustrating to me that other peoples' priorities seem to be the opposite.

terryatIRAdvocates21 karma

I share your frustration. I have spoken at so many programs at Universities and Bar Associations where I'm speaking about the cocoa case and watching people consume Nestle, Mars and Hershey products while I'm speaking. I think the key is to not lump everyone together. There are some people that are simply going to be unreachable. I'm trying now to focus on building a core group of people WHO DO care about issues like slavery in the global economy in the year 2021. I tell my colleagues that if we can't get people to care about enslaved children than we are doomed. To do this work, I HAVE TO BE OPTIMISTIC, and I meet so many great people willing to help and collaborate that it keeps me going. Most important, I keep motivated by thinking about the children I represent who were formerly enslaved. I have to convey to whomever will listen that child slavery is real in 2021 and they can help stop it. I recognize that some of the people who don't yet get it have unique challenges including economic challenges that make it harder for them to be informed consumers and act upon their knowledge. But still I can only try to reach them and make a reasonable request, that they prioritize some issues, such as enslaved children, and work with us to solve the problem.

eurotouringautos9 karma

Have you ever faced a more personal reprisal from such powerful multinational companies? I ask because I recently read a piece about Steven Donziger who decided to take on Chevron


terryatIRAdvocates22 karma

I know Steven Donziger very well and I'm very sympathetic to his situation. It has now become common for multinational companies to sue the lawyers who expose their human rights violations. Drummond Company, a U.S. coal mining company operating in Colombia, has sued me for defamation and RICO for truthfully saying that the company is funding the AUC'S war crimes in Colombia. This tactic is designed to distract me and other public interest lawyers from doing our work and exposing the crimes of multinational corporations. Thankfully, truth is a defense, to the frivolous claims Drummond brought against me so I am confident that this nuisance will soon be finished. I expect I will easily prevail in my case, but it has cost me a tremendous amount in time and money to defend myself against this frivolous lawsuit.

facemoosh6 karma

Do you fear for your life? Just reading that made me think of the question.

terryatIRAdvocates4 karma

I have been offered bribes by companies to go away, and I have been threatened with violence on several occasions. The one form of retaliation that is becoming more common is that multinational companies bring cases against public interest lawyers for defamation or RICO claims. Drummond Company, a U.S. coal mining company operating in Colombia, has sued me for defamation and RICO for truthfully saying that the company is funding the AUC'S war crimes in Colombia. This tactic is designed to distract me and other public interest lawyers from doing our work and exposing the crimes of multinational corporations. Thankfully, truth is a defense, to the frivolous claims Drummond brought against me so I am confident that this nuisance will soon be finished.

betcher735 karma

Genuinely curious how this aspect of our legal system works. How does one have the right to represent such a broad issue? It’s not like someone can hire you directly right?

terryatIRAdvocates7 karma

In all of my cases, including those representing former enslaved children, I do have direct representation of the claimants just like in any other case. You are correct that it would be impossible for me to bring these cases without representing actual victims. The logistics of communicating with my clients and explaining the complexities of their legal rights are a challenge, but it is something I have learned to do across the years. One of the most rewarding aspects of my work is meeting with and offering a legal avenue to justice for people who have experienced serious human rights violations.

Fuuxd5 karma

How do you stay safe? I can't imagine these companies won't somehow send hitmen or do shady things to screw with your life

terryatIRAdvocates9 karma

In every country where I work I have an amazing local team that makes sure that we are within their context taking proper security measures. I have been threatened a few times, but thankfully have not had a serious event that threatened my life. I've been doing this for about 30 years and feel that we are working effectively to address security issues by now.

walloon54 karma

This is great, we obviously need to end child slavery

What's a good way to make sure these groups that Nestle uses to farm and/or buy cocoa from doesn't use child labor - EVER

Are there sources of cocoa that are slavery-free?

And/or do you know if it would be possible to grow cocoa in the United States, like in Florida or Hawaii?

terryatIRAdvocates8 karma

For acceptable cocoa companies go to https://www.slavefreechocolate.org/.

There is high quality cocoa grown in Hawaii, but not nearly in the quantities needed to supply the world. Other places that produce cocoa without enslaving children are Mexico, Ecuador, the Philippines, Brazil, and Tanzania. Companies that source from these countries are very likely not using enslaved children.

maryizbell4 karma

Will the outcomes of your lawsuits actually harm Nestle? They are so large, so what would it take to make an actual difference?

terryatIRAdvocates14 karma

Assuming that we are legally victorious, something I think is very likely, our U.S. legal system has a wonderful tool called punitive damages. This is a remedy applied when a company like Nestle is knowingly engaging in serious human rights violations and does nothing to stop it. A U.S. jury will get to decide exactly how much a damage award would have to be to teach Nestle a lesson so that it does not ever again engage in such horrific practices. In addition, we are hopeful that a legal victory will have a tremendous impact in educating consumers about the fact that Nestle has been knowingly profiting from enslaved children for decades. I think most people would be discouraged from purchasing Nestle products once a definitive ruling finds them guilty of profiting from child slavery.

thil30003 karma

Any interest in Amazon?

terryatIRAdvocates18 karma

Of course! Of the many issues, I'm most interested in the fact that Amazon's gadgets like Alexa are likely using cobalt that is mined by children in the DRC. The other Amazon issues such as treatment of workers in the United States warehouses are being handled well by dedicated trade union lawyers.

fantastuc3 karma

Will you please confirm for all here that you have no intention of committing suicide?

terryatIRAdvocates5 karma

After doing this work for 30 years, I can say it makes me happy and fulfilled so I have no intention of leaving the scene. Should I turn up dead, I was not the one to do it. I plan to make it to at least 100 years old.

well-readdit3 karma

Thank you for raising awareness about this. I work for a CPG company (not in your list, thankfully) and I’ve seen first-hand how much power these companies have. It’s hard to have a voice as a consumer when you know manufacturers, and especially retailers, only prioritize profit and then claim that it’s “in the interest of the consumer who deserves the lowest prices.” But at what cost?

I’m concerned about how we can effect change. Are there manuf/retailers that we should support instead of the identified offenders? Obviously smaller, local companies tend to be better but that’s not necessarily a feasible solution for shoppers with limited funds and/or those seeking products that simply aren’t sourced locally. (And I mean basics like coffee, bananas, etc)

terryatIRAdvocates3 karma

Thank you so much for such a thoughtful question. Looking at a list of the major CPG companies, I recognize that many of them unfortunately are among the worst offenders of basic worker rights in the global economy. However, most of them do not go to the extreme of profiting from enslaved children. I think an effective strategy for coming at the problem which is that the retail companies are the major customers of these companies and they may not reflect the ethical choices of their consumers. We need consumers and activists to make clear to the retailers that they do expect them to apply transparent standards of ethical conduct to any company they are doing business with. Retailers won't change anything unless they are pressured to do so by their customers. In addition, consumers need to make clear to retailers that they want the supply chains to be transparent enough that ethical choices can be made without requiring major independent research.

ichthi1 karma

Why should humans have rights? Who/what determines what these rights are?

terryatIRAdvocates2 karma

Every person is born with abstract rights that should apply to all people. Unfortunately, humans need rights to protect them from the other humans who will exploit them, even enslave them, as history sadly makes clear. There is actually a well-developed body of law that constitutes what all "civilized" nations agree are the fundamental human rights that are universally applicable. The real challenge is making the universally agreed rights enforceable to all humans.

T98hSp4SwIq2dg0Mmnv7-2 karma

When you call yourself a crusader, doesn't that feel a bit silly?

terryatIRAdvocates4 karma

I meant this in the context of campaigning vigorously for social change rather than the negative connotation of the crusades but good to know for next time that it can be seen as such.