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LUMPENPROLETARIAT—On this week’s edition of free speech radio’s (and Free Speech TV’s) Economic Update, Professor of Economics Dr. Richard Wolff has reported that production of cocoa products by Nestlé and Cargill has exploited child labour and slave labour in Mali and Ivory CoastDr. Wolff cited the well-known Bloomberg Financial News service for this disturbing news update of modern capitalist modes of production.  Escaped slaves, or former child workers, sought legal counsel and filed the case of Doe v. Nestle SA, 05-cv-05133, U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Los Angeles).  However, the federal judge has sided with the corporations despite evidence of corporate malfeasance or criminality.  This is the second time the judge has dismissed this case, this time arguing that the escaped slaves failed to prove that the slavery was planned from the U.S., such that the case might fall within U.S. jurisdiction.  This narrow logic sets a terrible precedent, which makes it easier for corporations to claim plausible deniability in future when corporations are found to engage, directly or through subcontractors, in labour abuses, child labour, or slavery.  Saliently, The U.S. Department of Labor actually publishes a yearly report containing a List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor issued by the Bureau of International Labor Affairs.  (The December 2014 updated edition of the report listed a total of 74 countries and 136 goods.)  Listen (and/or download) here. [1]

Messina

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ECONOMIC UPDATE—[24 MAR 2017]

[Introduction by Dr. Richard Wolff omitted by scribe]

[Economic Updates omitted by scribe, except for the news report on child/slave labour.]  (c. 11:16)

DR. RICHARD WOLFF:  “This last week, or actually March 10th to be exact, also set an interesting precedent, that is so interesting that my guess is you don’t know much about it.  So, I can bring it to your attention.  This has to do with a judge in Los Angeles, who decided that two famous food companies—Nestlé, that is perhaps best known as cocoa and chocolate products, and Cargill.  These are two monster corporations, major players in the world of mega-corps in the food business.

“And they had gotten themselves into trouble because it turns out that, in Mali and the Ivory Coast, the countries from which most of the cocoa comes, that goes into the chocolate, that we eat, that Nestlé and Cargill process.  It turns out that many of the people working in the cocoa fields are children.  It turns out that many of them are slaves.  That’s right—children bought and sold between Mali and the Ivory Coast in Africa.

“So, to your wonderment, is there still slavery in Africa?  The answer is an unqualified, absolutely YES.

More than one million children—

“Just as background:

some as young as five pick cocoa pods, and then crack them open in the Ivory Coast and perform other manual labour under sometimes hazardous conditions. 

“This is the restrained language of the Bloomberg Financial News Service.  No radical sheet here screaming about a crime.  This is very okay language.

“Six of them found a lawyer—that’s six child slaves.  And they told the following story.  They were

taken to the Ivory Coast from Mali.  They were sold to plantations in the 1990s.  They worked 14 hours a day under armed guard without pay six days a week.  They slept on floors of locked rooms, were given only food scraps.  Those trying to escape were severely beaten [etcetera, etcetera].

“If this sounds familiar, it is.  These are the stories of slavery, that one has heard, if one has not been asleep, only it happens now.  And, so, a few of these ex-slaves got a lawyer and brought suit in the United States claiming that Nestlé and Cargill knowingly did business with, provided funding for, the local authorities, who were running this slave labour operation.  (c. 14:32)

“These companies were stunned.  Both of these, Nestlé and Cargill recently—and that is in recent years—set up offices to monitor and to be concerned about corporate responsibility.  And they were proud and advertised their corporate responsibility programme.  And they insisted that they had nothing to do with it, that they shouldn’t be brought up with this, that this wasn’t their responsibility; they didn’t buy or sell these slaves, the usual.

“The corporation’s defence persuaded the judge.  So, why am I telling you about this sad outcome, in which these abused children were unable to find justice in an American court?  The reason is:  I want you to understand the logic of the judge and of the victorious corporate lawyers.  They wanted the judge to rule the way he did, they argued, because, if he didn’t, then it would mean that corporations would have no reason to set up corporate responsibility offices because it wouldn’t work.  It wouldn’t protect them from such lawsuits.

“I found this amazing.  The corporate responsibility programme clearly didn’t prevent these companies from engaging in business with people doing slave labour, about which these companies, of course, had to know.  It didn’t work, these corporate responsibility programmes, very well.  Did they?

“So, if the court found against these companies, and they stopped doing it, what difference would it make?  Extraordinary the way legal reasoning sometimes works.  Extraordinary what is going on in the United States, in our court system, and the way we earn the money, we believe we need as as society.”  (c. 17:04)

[snip]  (c. 59:59)

Learn more at ECONOMIC UPDATE.

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[26 MAR 2017]

[Last modified at 23:56 PST on 6 APR 2017]

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