The following is a guest blog post by Elizabeth O’Connell of the Raise the Bar, Hershey Coalition:
“Valentine’s Day in Hershey”
Very early, and not quite yet bright, we jumped in the car and headed north…for Hershey, PA. At 9:00am we met Jasper Perry-Anderson, a Philadelphia eighth grader who created an online petition encouraging the company to increase its commitment to ethically sourced cocoa to prevent abusive child labor on the cocoa farms from where it sources.
In just two weeks, Jasper’s petition on Change.org gained more than 16,000 signatures from individuals around the world. In addition to the petitions we delivered more than 500 Valentines made by kids for the members of the Hershey Trust. These Valentines were made by students from across the country, though largely from New York State thanks to NYSUT and the New York Labor Religion Coalition. The Valentines contained statements like “This Valentine’s Day, I want to give my Valentine chocolate from laborers who have earned fair wages” and “We have feelings and so do Africa’s kids. They suffer.”
Cathy O’Brien, an employee of the Trust, accepted the petitions and valentines on behalf of the the Trust.
Simultaneously, on the other side of the country, 56 seventh and eighth graders delivered Valentines to the Chairman of the Trust, Robert Cavanaugh, at his real estate office in Los Angeles, CA. Mr. Cavanaugh accepted the petitions.
For two years we (Raise the Bar, Hershey Coalition) have called on The Hershey Company’s executives and board to take meaningful action to prevent child labor throughout their supply chain. With little progress, we have taken it up a notch. The Hershey Trust is in charge of the Hershey school, controls approximately eighty percent of the voting shares of The Hershey Company, and holds several seats on the company’s board of directors.
In Jasper’s own words: “Mr. Hershey established the Milton Hershey School and School Trust to provide full-time education and care for disadvantaged children. As the majority stockholder of Hershey’s Chocolate Company, the Hershey Trust also needs to do more to take care of the children in West African it’s exploiting for profit.”
The actions today were coordinated by Raise the Bar, Hershey!, a coalition of organizations fighting ongoing labor abuses such as child labor, forced labor and trafficking in the cocoa industry. The campaign has involved over one hundred thousand consumers who voiced their concerns to Hershey about the company’s child labor practices.
Raise the Bar, Hershey! is led by the following organizations: Global Exchange, Green America, International Labor Rights Forum and Labor Religion Coalition of New York State.
- Sign the petition: It’s not too late to sign Jasper’s Petition. Have a happy and just Valentines Day!
- Check out the Valentines: Visit our Facebook page to see some of the Valentines that were dropped off to Hershey today, and a few photos as well