recaps of the top 'ask me anything' interviews from reddit and more...
I’m Terry Collingsworth, the human rights lawyer who filed a landmark child slavery lawsuit against Nestle, Mars, and Hershey. I am the Executive Director of International Rights Advocates, and a crusader against human rights violations in global supply chains. Ask me anything!

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

THANKS VERY MUCH REDDIT FOR THE VERY ENGAGING DISCUSSION WE'VE HAD TODAY. THAT WAS AN ENGAGING 10 HOURS! I HOPE I CAN CIRCLE BACK AND ANSWER ANY OUTSTANDING QUESTIONS AFTER SOME REST AND WALK WITH MY DOG, REINA.

ONCE WE'VE HAD CONCRETE DEVELOPMENTS IN THE CASES, LET'S HAVE ANOTHER AMA TO GET EVERYONE CAUGHT UP!


81
questions
23,918
score
March 25th 2021
interview date
flekkzo

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?


terryatIRAdvocates

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.

molotovPopsicle

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


terryatIRAdvocates

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.

Mockingjay32

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


terryatIRAdvocates

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.

the_best_jabroni

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?


terryatIRAdvocates

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.

waddapfurfee

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


terryatIRAdvocates

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.

justhere4laughs119

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


terryatIRAdvocates

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!

Cornographicmaterial

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?


terryatIRAdvocates

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.

supereightyfive

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?


terryatIRAdvocates

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.

brettorlob

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)?


terryatIRAdvocates

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.

BreAkmEpleSae

How can we help you fight these hateful corporations?


terryatIRAdvocates

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.

bringsmemes

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?


terryatIRAdvocates

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.

NoPowerOverMe

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.


terryatIRAdvocates

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.

AsicsGirl

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


terryatIRAdvocates

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.

cyril0

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?


terryatIRAdvocates

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.

ihaveacutebutt420

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?


terryatIRAdvocates

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.

alxwx

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


terryatIRAdvocates

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.

Tunderbar1

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


terryatIRAdvocates

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.

LAPOHTAMADRDe

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


terryatIRAdvocates

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.

ceilingscorpion

Is your organization doing anything to address forced labor of Uighur Muslims in supply chains that run through China?


terryatIRAdvocates

Yes, we are discussing the situation with several other organizations to explore legal options. All of us would like to intervene and particularly address the continuing use of products made by the forced labor of the Uighur Muslims. The challenges of getting real information in China and the danger to anyone who assists us or works with us, makes this is a very difficult task. I can only say that there are some very serious people involved in these discussion and I am hopeful that we will be able to take some action.

eurotouringautos

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

https://www.esquire.com/news-politics/a35812573/steven-donziger-chevron-house-arrest/


terryatIRAdvocates

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.

JJHinge

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.


terryatIRAdvocates

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.

HoloMJThrowaway

What slavery-free chocolate brands would you recommend?


terryatIRAdvocates

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

D-utch

What do you think about Neal Katyal arguing against this while becoming the darling of the left?


terryatIRAdvocates

When Neal Katyal argued to the U.S. Supreme Court that corporations are immune from liability for child slavery, I was as disgusted as many of the Justices appeared to be. I can only speculate that Neal got a tremendous price when he sold his soul. I don't think that we will allow him to continue to pretend to be the darling of the left.

thil3000

Any interest in Amazon?


terryatIRAdvocates

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.

harlsey

Do you have to get custom pants made to fit your giant cajones?


terryatIRAdvocates

Because of COVID we are getting by in sweatpants now so all is good!

maryizbell

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


terryatIRAdvocates

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.

betcher73

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?


terryatIRAdvocates

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.

Fuuxd

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


terryatIRAdvocates

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.

walloon5

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?


terryatIRAdvocates

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.

fantastuc

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


terryatIRAdvocates

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.

TomasNavarro

What sort of sandwich would be your go to default?


terryatIRAdvocates

Funny thing is, I don't eat sandwiches at all. My default lunch is a quickly thrown together salad that is mostly locally sourced. My main weakness in food choice is the temptation of a large bone-in ribeye steak for dinner.

facemoosh

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


terryatIRAdvocates

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.

daemyn

Mars at least has said they are working to shift to sustainable and traceable cocoa sourcing by 20205. How is there current effort to shift their supply chain insufficient?


terryatIRAdvocates

Mars and the other companies made this promise in 2001 and unilaterally extended their own deadline 3 TIMES, out to 2025. They have given themselves 24 years to fix their own child labor problem. There is no reason to think that the 2025 deadline will be taken any more seriously than any of the others. They will continue to profit from enslaved children until someone actually makes them stop.

SoutheasternComfort

This is all very impressive, as is your record. But I don't have the experience to bring them to court and oppose this personally. So what can people like me do about issues like slavery in Nestles supply chain?


terryatIRAdvocates

Thanks for this 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.

well-readdit

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)


terryatIRAdvocates

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.

FuriCL

How much do you bench?


terryatIRAdvocates

I have not been able to go to my gym for about a year due to COVID, but at my last visit I'm at about 130 pounds. Not bad for a 64 year old!

kshucker

Care to talk about Hershey if you can? I live within 20 minutes of Hershey, PA and we (the community) always hear crazy stories about work environments and even testing on animals that supposedly gets swept under the rug.

These claims are always from people who who have worked for Hershey but say they can’t go into detail out of fear.


terryatIRAdvocates

Sorry, I am only familiar with the allegations I have investigated indicating that Hershey is one of the major companies profiting from enslaved children harvesting their cocoa. I have heard rumors of some of the bizarre things that happen in the Hershey facility, but lacking personal knowledge, I don't want to comment further.

TimeVendor

Hmm.. do you have a job opportunity in the place you are employed?


terryatIRAdvocates

We occasionally do hire - check our website for employment opportunities! Thanks for your interest.

PT-ma

Good human. Many people preach "thou shall F Nestlé!" but how can we plebs F Nestlé?


terryatIRAdvocates

THANK YOU for asking this important question. I can only suggest things that I believe will help us achieve victory over Nestle in our legal challenges:

*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.

LiarFires

I hope this doesn't get buried cause I really want to know. What are fair trade labels worth ? For example, I recently noticed The Rainforest Alliance label on Nestlé products, does it really mean this product was made ethically ? Thank you for answering and thank you so much for what you do !


terryatIRAdvocates

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.

potatoequalrights

What sort of laws would need to be passed (in both the U.S. and foreign countries) to hypothetically stop/reduce this issue to a crawl?


terryatIRAdvocates

The law that we are now using, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, was recently amended and we are testing now how the law works. I am optimistic that this will do a lot in stopping trafficking and forced labor in global supply chains. All countries need to enact meaningful due diligence laws that require companies to disclose all sources, direct and indirect, in their supply chains and to verify that none of their suppliers are violating fundamental human rights norms in their production systems. Finally, I think we should have more effective bans on the importation of products demonstrated to be produced by forced or trafficked labor.

1900grs

What do you think of how companies are using their Environmental, Social Governance people/departments? Are they all PR/Communications people or have you seen some people actually empowered and don't ing good things for corporations?


terryatIRAdvocates

In my experience, the CSR people working for large corporations tend to be more public relations oriented than empowered to actually solve human rights problems. I think the corporations view their embrace of CSR as a public relations victory that actually misleads consumers into thinking the company is taking action. Many CSR staff have spoken to me off the record and expressed frustration that they do not have the authority to solve problems that would cost significant money.

rathemis

What do you think about the recent Xinjiang cotton fiasco?


terryatIRAdvocates

We are discussing the situation with several other organizations to explore legal options. All of us would like to intervene and particularly address the continuing use of products made by the forced labor of the Uighur Muslims. The challenges of getting real information in China and the danger to anyone who assists us or works with us, makes this is a very difficult task. I can only say that there are some very serious people involved in these discussion and I am hopeful that we will be able to take some action.

s_rry

Do you have recommendations for high school curriculum resources about this topic?


terryatIRAdvocates

Though I can't think of a curriculum off the top of my mind right now - this is a great idea. A great reading though that can be done in high school is "King Leopold's Ghost" by Adam Hochschild which is a narrative explanation of exploitation and colonialism that really lays the foundation for explaining the global economy.

phoenixbbs

Have any of the companies been found guilty of this, and what were the consequences ?


terryatIRAdvocates

Not yet. All of our cases involving enslaved children are still pending but I hope I can soon announce that we have been successful in our efforts to use legal mechanisms to hold corporations accountable.

sus_asf

What are your thoughts on No Nestlé November?


terryatIRAdvocates

Thought it's great to have movements that boycott products as a campaign, I'm in favor of no Nestle 365.

Iskawaran

How do you get the money to fight these big companies?


terryatIRAdvocates

Thanks for the question. We rely a lot on small, individual donations from people who want to join the fight. We have a place on our website to make donations. www.iradvocates.org

Taco1235

What is something the average person can do to help put a stop to this without having an advanced law degree? I have already stopped buying nestle and as many horrible products as possible, but I want to do more.


terryatIRAdvocates

THANK YOU for asking!

*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.

VoxGens

Terry,

Thanks for doing this AMA! I’m an MBA candidate in my final course, which happens to be International Marketing. I work at a domestic company that is beginning to put together a Social Responsibility framework, and I decided to write my graduate paper on international social responsibility - how supply chain decisions impact international brands at home and abroad.

Globally recognized human rights issues (e.g. child labor) aside, should we be holding companies to a higher standard regarding legal, but morally or ethically questionable, practices in other countries? Are there culturally acceptable practices that we should be condemning, or otherwise disgusting discouraging (EDIT: auto-correct typo)? If so, how do we discourage those practices while respecting cultural differences?

Really appreciate your time! Would love to connect offline.


terryatIRAdvocates

Thanks for the question u/VoxGens. I think it is very important to be aware of and respect cultural differences when we are interacting in other countries and dealing with their people. Human right norms and standards of social responsibility are universal and should not be flexible depending on the country. For example, for years while I was working in India on child labor issues in the hand-knotted carpet sector, I was told by owners of the carpet factories that their use of child labor was acceptable because it was culturally normal in India for children to work and not go to school. That happened to be false and was an excuse the elite supplied to allow young children who are poor to work in their factories. In fact, India has agreed to all international conventions prohibiting child labor and child labor is also illegal under Indian law. Such extreme violations of human rights like forcing children to work cannot ever be excused by cultural relativity.

_Soso_

As a victim of domestic violence at the hand of an active humanitarian worker, I have struggled to get help. A lot of people seem to think that because he does humanitarian work, he couldn't possible have done all these horrible things to me.

I guess my questions for you would be, do you see a lot of domestic violence in the humanitarian world? What advice would you have for victims seeking legal help?


terryatIRAdvocates

I'm so sorry to hear you are facing this. I certainly would never assume that anyone is above horrible conduct because of the position they hold. Indeed humanitarian workers and peace keepers can be among the worst offenders of human and domestic rights because of power imbalance and their assumption that they will not be held accountable. I do not know what steps you've already taken but humanitarian organizations should be extremely sensitive about such issues and be willing to address any credible reports of abuse. I hope you've done that and reported the situation to local law enforcement, unless you are in a country where that would be futile or dangerous. Good luck to you in trying to address this, but I assure you that most knowledgeable people working in the humanitarian field would not assume a humanitarian worker is not capable of treating someone this way.

GuitarWontGetYouLaid

What do you think is the “final solution” to stop exploiting third world cheap labor?

I’ve read some of your works(law student here) but I feel like the pandemic has drastically changed from “the world sucks, nothing matters” to “SEIZE THE MEANS OF PRODUCTION” in under a year. Maybe you have changed some of your conclusions on this topic.


terryatIRAdvocates

After years of working on some of the most horrific human rights violations, I have actually become more optimistic about our chances of making real progress. I have met so many great people around the world who are anxious to join us and help to address serious human rights violations. I think consumers and citizens are becoming more aware of their power to reign in corporate crimes. The challenge has evolved from how do we do it, to how do we communicate to as many as people as possible to join us. I think the combination of a legal strategy with a campaign strategy can be effective if properly implemented. We are now focused almost entirely on our work in the cocoa sector and cobalt mining to try to create a workable model of this tactic that others can replicate. I would certainly rather be in the fight trying to do everything that I can then throwing up my hands and saying it's impossible.

thisisaNORMALname

What got you into becoming a human rights lawyer?


terryatIRAdvocates

Well, I worked in a copper mill factory for 5 years while I was a part-time college student. I also was a member of the International Association of Machinists Union and saw the power of workers coming together and demanding their rights. This motivated me to go to law school to become a union lawyer. The more I studied the situation however, I realized that the real extreme worker issues were in the global economy. I took some time to think about how I could help with the situation facing global workers and eventually helped to form an organization that focused on this issue, the International Labor Rights Forum, which still exists and does great work. I began my international litigation work while there, and in 2007 I left to start the IRAdvocates to focus exclusively on international human rights litigation.

WWMRD2016

Do you think "in transit" supply chain management and inventory monetisation through blockchain that can track goods through its entire lifecycle could be utilised to ensure supply chains remain legal/ethical?


terryatIRAdvocates

Blockchain and even GPS tracking are useful tools once a product enters the supply chain. What's missing is actual monitoring of who processed or produced the materials that are about to be shipped. Many EV companies claim to be using blockchain to track bags of cobalt that have been mined in the DRC, but none of this technology can attest to whether children mined the cobalt that went into the bags that are now being tracked by the hi tech blockchain. The only solution to this is to have independent monitoring of the actual process of production to ensure that human rights were respected in the production of the goods.

jesuslover69420

How can you work to end all human trafficking, especially in elite groups?


terryatIRAdvocates

The law that we are now using, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, was recently amended and we are testing now how the law works. I am optimistic that this will do a lot in stopping trafficking and forced labor in global supply chains. All countries need to enact meaningful due diligence laws that require companies to disclose all sources, direct and indirect, in their supply chains and to verify that none of their suppliers are violating fundamental human rights norms in their production systems. Finally, I think we should have more effective bans on the importation of products demonstrated to be produced by forced or trafficked labor.

gingy33

Thanks for answering these questions. I’m actually in the process of writing my Law Review note on corporate accountability in the global supply chain.

Do you think trafficking and forced labor victims have the means to pursue litigation against corporations if the TVPRA provided for broad liability?


terryatIRAdvocates

Good luck on your note! I think the TVPRA is a great tool for victims of trafficking and forced labor. The challenge for them in getting appropriate relief is having the resources to take on large corporations that profit from their abuse. We can take on a limited number of cases pro bono, but there are lots of issues of forced labor and trafficking that go undressed because of a lack of resources.

Ok-Caterpillar9550

Why haven't you when after nike yet?


terryatIRAdvocates

You could actually say that I began my international work going after Nike. The very first campaign that I worked on was exposing Nike's use of child labor and hazardous chemicals in making shoes in Indonesia. We then chased them to Vietnam and Bangladesh, and then China. I think Nike has made progress in their treatment of workers based on all of this exposure, but I personally will never wear any Nike products because I have personal knowledge of the dirty tactics and lies they used to continue using child labor as long as possible.

5oclock_shadow

What are some good books or materials you would recommend to start delving on these issues, either discusing the legal framework for global supply chain accountability or telling the stories of victims or advocates?


terryatIRAdvocates

As a foundational book, I highly recommend "King Leopold's Ghost" by Adam Hochschild. Also, a list of goods produced by child labor can be found on the U.S. Department of Labor Site (https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/reports/child-labor/list-of-goods). I'm also working on a book to try to tie all of this together but that won't be available for a year or so!

MathildeButtFarts

I see your many books and I wonder if there are any titles you wouldn’t mind sharing, like ones which originally inspired you to work in Human Rights and ones which have made you sit back and think on as you’ve progressed through life?


terryatIRAdvocates

I have mentioned in other responses the inspiration I received from reading "King Leopold's Ghost" by Adam Hochschild, which is a brutal narrative exposing colonialism and greed. I have also studied the civil rights movement and its heroes for inspiration, including biographies of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Thurgood Marshall.

kittylove999

What are your thoughts on the human rights of those kidnapped and forced into commercial fishing and basically slave working in shrimp farms?


terryatIRAdvocates

My friends and colleagues, Paul Hoffman and Agnieszka Fryzman, have a pending case involving Thai workers kidnapped and forced into shrimp farming. The case is in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals awaiting a decision. This is a very good case and should result in justice for the kidnapped workers.

skaliton

Probably not the intended question but how can I help? Broadly speaking for everyone else

but also how can I specifically help (NY licensed lawyer with free time)


terryatIRAdvocates

Thanks for asking! I previously responded how people can help generally in the thread, but more specifically for attorney's with free time, please reach out to me at (tc@iradvocates.org) and I'd be happy to see what we could work out. There is strength in numbers!

casualsmash

Whats you favorite Chocolate?


terryatIRAdvocates

That's easy! It's called Askinosie Chocolate. It's extra delicious because it's made in all the right ways. Their products are featured along with others on the Slave Free Chocolate Website: https://www.slavefreechocolate.org/

JohnnyHighPockets

What do you plan to do about Amazon and Apple?


terryatIRAdvocates

Great question - there are a number of comments on the thread that dive into these questions. Short answer, we have sued Apple and are investigating Amazon.

Rindaow

Is there a way as consumers to help?


terryatIRAdvocates

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.

ok_buddy_gamer

How did you get into law? I’m an aspiring lawyer and civil rights has always been a passion of mine.


terryatIRAdvocates

Well, I worked in a copper mill factory for 5 years while I was a part-time college student. I also was a member of the International Association of Machinists Union and saw the power of workers coming together and demanding their rights. This motivated me to go to law school to become a union lawyer. The more I studied the situation however, I realized that the real extreme worker issues were in the global economy. I took some time to think about how I could help with the situation facing global workers and eventually helped to form an organization that focused on this issue, the International Labor Rights Forum, which still exists and does great work. I began my international litigation work while there, and in 2007 I left to start the IRAdvocates to focus exclusively on international human rights litigation.

ichthi

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


terryatIRAdvocates

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.

vexunumgods

How are the kids gonna eat after you take the only way the family's can earn a living? Do you have a solution before you create a new famine in the region?


terryatIRAdvocates

The kids I represent were trafficked from Mali and then forced to harvest cocoa in Cote D'Ivoire for NO pay. The only thing their families have lost is their stolen children.

Abomb11yo

I recently read an article that said Apple had a supplier that used child labor at one of its factories. Apple knew about it for three years before eventually cutting ties with them.

What can be done to stop big companies/corporations from using child labor and having the children and people in general work in bad and unsafe conditions.

There have also been reports that people who work in warehouses at Amazon or do delivery have urinated in bottles. Does this sort of thing count as being unsafe working conditions or would it just be poor condutions?

What can be done to stop this sort of thing from happening?

https://www.businessinsider.com/apple-knowingly-used-child-labor-supplier-3-years-cut-costs-2020-12?op=1


terryatIRAdvocates

Yes, I am familiar with Apple's relationship with Huayou Mining Company in the DRC where Apple obtains its cobalt. Apple ignored clear knowledge of Huayou's admitted use of child labor and provided misleading answers to Amnesty International while they were researching the issue. What we can do to stop them is to first, bring legal actions as we are doing and second, to let Apple know you will not buy a phone or a computer that cost thousands of dollars that are powered by blood cobalt.

Yes, the Amazon stories are true examples of the exploitative conditions even U.S. workers face who work for Amazon. I think the solution there is what workers around the country are trying to do, form a union to exercise their rights and obtain descent working conditions from one of the richest companies in the world.

kentacova

Have you ever had the urge to go into the environmental sector? I’m somewhat in that field (at times) and I am always proud of my efforts when working with a reputable company, and will refuse a project assignment if I know they haven’t held up to a good standard of negotiation and mitigation. I’m mainly based in utility and infrastructure expansion in that particular area.

Also, the movie Michael Clayton is at the top of my favorites... so I think I admire you instantly. I’ve always been drawn to these issues but fell short of getting a JD. Please keep it up!


terryatIRAdvocates

Thanks very much for your comment. I also greatly enjoyed Michael Clayton. Sadly, George Clooney, the star of the movie, makes millions of dollars a year presenting a happy face for Nescafe, one of Nestle's most profitable entities. If you search for the British Channel 4, you will find that they did a resent award winning segment proving on camera that Nescafe uses child labor to pick coffee beans in Guatemala. So George Clooney IS Michael Clayton.

There is a lot less agreement internationally on environmental norms that would allow legal action to be taken against environmental criminals. Three organizations that I admire - Earth First, Earth Rights International and Greenpeace - are doing incredible work trying to use law to enforce environmental standards internationally.

OutsideIsGood

I’m in University in Canada at the moment, and you are a very inspiring figure to me! Next year I plan on enrolling in political science and law courses. Are there any other courses that would be beneficial for me to take? Do you have any tips on being academically motivated, or perhaps even some things I can do to help outside of academia?


terryatIRAdvocates

Good luck to you! Starting off with the right intentions is everything. Most of the horrific human rights crimes occurring today int he global economy are in Africa. I would recommend some study of African history and culture to better understand the context for the ongoing exploitation of the people in Africa. If there are no courses available (many universities don't offer them unfortunately) you can listen to Basil Davidson on youtube. He is an Africanist who has a deep knowledge of the rich history of Africa - old but good (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X75COneJ4w8).

In terms of being motivated, I would highly recommend volunteering at an organization that works with refugees so you can have a chance to help concretely but also learn more about the realities that people are facing today.

Fall_of_Atlas

What is your view on consumer responsibility in the market to buy ethically sourced goods? Iphones are still made at foxxconn even after there was public outrage, but no one seems to hold them to that.

Furthermore, do you think the lack of ethically sourced options in many cases say anything about the average consumer?


terryatIRAdvocates

A major theme of my discussion today is importance of educating consumers of their obligation to be knowledgeable consumers and to use their power to demand that companies comply with fundamental human rights norms. It is a huge challenge because our consumer oriented society wants to have quick satisfaction without the bother of assessing the consequences of their choices. There are so many examples of this, including Foxxconn. Our challenge is to reach consumers who want to be a part of the solution by using their purchasing power to curb corporate misbehavior.

VonEcano

Is your work treated in the same manner as international countries, businesses or people around the world listed by the Magnitsky Act? I'm wondering if the U.S. is softer on domestic countries. Also, does your work coincide with dumping waste in some countries by large conglomerates?


terryatIRAdvocates

Unfortunately, there is not a lot of coordination or symmetry in the patch work of U.S. laws dealing with serious international offenses. It would be nice if there was a streamlined approach where all sorts of international crimes could utilize a common law. But, for now, we are forced to essentially reinvent the wheel each time a new form of international crime emerges. Human rights law is much better developed internationally than environmental crimes or individual criminal activity. But even in the area of human rights we have a difficult time bringing cases and obtaining results when the crime occur offshore. The United States and the EU are roughly equivalent in terms of how they address international offenses.

TheVines2002EVOLVED

Thank you for what you’re doing! I applaud it.

Does your work extend to tackling foreign based corporations as well, or just those based in the United States or Europe?

Have you gotten blackmailed by these corporations or experienced any other kind of abuse for speaking up?


terryatIRAdvocates

Thanks very much. Our work against foreign corporations in the U.S. is limited by the rules of personal jurisdiction. I can only sue companies in the U.S. that have a sufficient presence that the courts will extend personal jurisdiction over them. I regularly work with lawyers in other countries to collaborate on cases they are able to bring that I could not bring in the U.S. due to personal jurisdiction limitations. For example, I am working with lawyers in France, to explore bringing a case against Nestle there.

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.

Chhotu_uttam

As it is with every famous lawyer, I gotta say on behalf of everyone this:

“Sir, how can I work under you?” 🥺


terryatIRAdvocates

Thank you very much for the kind words. Please visit our website to learn about opportunities to work with our team!

Evidence-Baste

Do you think there is still a chance that the US could join the Trans-Pacific Partnership?

Or has that ship sailed after the previous administration withdrew, handing over world leadership to the Chinese Communist Party?


terryatIRAdvocates

All trade agreements present an opportunity to include meaningful social regulation including respect for human rights and the environment. If we are to rejoin the Trans-Pacific Partnership, I'd like to see more focus on these issues.

gm2

Hi,

Thanks for the AMA!

My question whether you have any plans to sue the Chinese communist party for the ongoing genocide they are committing? That seems like a pretty big human rights violation.


terryatIRAdvocates

I would love to sue the Chinese Communist Party for many things, but they are the sitting government of the People's Republic of China so they have sovereign immunity under U.S. law.

Khyta

What would you fight: 1 horse sized duck or 100 duck sized horses?

A perfect metaphor for would you rather fight one giant corporation or many smaller ones.


terryatIRAdvocates

I think to have an impact we have to bring down the one giant corporation and set an example for all of the others. That is why I am particularly delighted that a lot of our work is focused on holding Nestle, one of the world's largest and most irresponsible corporations, accountable.

DoomedKiblets

Ask? All I can say it thank you for everything you are doing. And can you let us know how WE can help support this cause and you directly as consumers?


terryatIRAdvocates

THANK YOU for asking!

*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.

misterart

What is the key to make supply chain middle management accountable for their ignorance of CSR and impact on the world ?


terryatIRAdvocates

In my view middle management at these large companies is not ignorant of the violations of CSR principles and the impact on the world, they are willfully ignoring their obligations as humans. We can, using the legal avenues we have available, sue the individual decision-makers who are responsible for human rights violations. The challenge for us is finding out their names and responsibilities within the maze of a large corporate hierarchy. We sometimes get whistleblowers who expose specific names but otherwise we need our cases to progress to the discovery stage before we can dig in and get inside information about the companies. I always wonder how middle and upper management can go home each day and have dinner with their own children knowing how they make their money abusing child laborers in their supply chains.

waltron2000

Do believe that boycotting and divestment movements work? Are some governments more culpable then others?


terryatIRAdvocates

Yes, boycotting and divestment can work directed at companies not countries. Combined with our lawsuits and consumer pressure, these tools should be able to end the exploitation of children in the supply chains of rich multinational companies. Yes, the governments where the most horrific acts occur are culpable, but I think the path to change is to make the companies that benefit from corruption and lack of law enforcement to change their practices in environments where they have been able to do whatever makes them the most money.

Dudewithadifference

Have you been threatened with your life or that of family? How do you deal with it?


terryatIRAdvocates

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.

I personally keep focused on the human rights issues and remain very vigilent in my work to ensure that we do not take unnecessary security risks.

jrodshibuya

What do you think about the draft UN treaty on business and human rights?


terryatIRAdvocates

Like all UN Treaties, it will largely be useless without clear mandatory and enforceable standards. The current draft has none of these. There are multiple possibilities for meaningful regulation but the combined power of multinational corporations often partnered with national governments that are protecting their home corporations prevent meaningful reform.

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