These Lawyers Want You to Know Slaves May Be Feeding Your Cat
“This item may be the product of slave labor.”
Those jarring words could end up on candy bar wrappers, packages of frozen shrimp and even cans of cat food if some California lawyers get their way.
Forced labor permeates supply chains that stretch across the globe, from remote farms in Africa and the seas off Southeast Asia to supermarkets in America and Europe. Almost 21 million people are enslaved for profit worldwide, the UN says, providing $150 billion in illicit revenue every year.
Governments are pushing companies to better police suppliers, but that’s not enough for a group of U.S. law firms. They’ve sued name-brand companies doing business in California, like Hershey Co., Mars Inc., Nestle SA and Costco Wholesale Corp., hoping to use the state’s consumer protection laws to put the suffering of millions squarely in front of shoppers.
“These lawsuits are vehicles for forcing business ethics,” said Niall McCarthy, an attorney with one of the class action firms taking up the issue, Cotchett Pitre & McCarthy LLP. “You cannot ignore human suffering to make a buck.”
The companies say there’s no state law mandating warnings, and that they’re doing their best to avoid working with anyone using slave labor. This week, Nestle prevailed in Los Angeles, where a federal judge agreed there’s no requirement to warn consumers about seafood from Thailand. The lawyers behind that suit have vowed to appeal, while McCarthy’s firm will argue a similar case against Costco in San Francisco later this month...