A federal appeals court in San Francisco has reinstated a lawsuit by a group of former child slaves accusing food conglomerates Nestle and Cargill of perpetuating slavery at Ivory Coast cocoa farms.
The ruling described the plaintiffs as ex-slaves who were kidnapped and forced to work on cocoa farms for as long as 14 hours a day without pay.
The judges said in a unanimous decision that the group could proceed with its claims despite the alleged abuses having occurred overseas.
“In sum, the allegations paint a picture of overseas slave labor that defendants perpetuated from headquarters in the United States,” the court wrote.
According to the court, the companies were “well aware” that child slave labor was pervasive in the Ivory Coast, and they had economic leverage that gave them control of cocoa production in the country. The judges said they took the ex-slaves’ “plausible allegations” as true in analyzing the case.
“Defendants provided personal spending money outside the ordinary business contract with the purpose to maintain ongoing relations with the farms so that the defendants could continue receiving cocoa at a price that would not be obtainable without child slave labor,” the court said.
After the ruling, the US unit of Vevey, Switzerland-based Nestle said forced child labor is unacceptable and has no place in the company’s supply chain.