We ended 2015 with nine posts on the issue of modern slavery in the coffeelands—this eight-part series on our research into wretched labor conditions on a small number of Brazilian coffee estates and this reflection on how that work is inspired by our mission to serve the poorest and most vulnerable people. Those posts were rather narrow in focus—one country, one specific category of labor abuse. An article we contributed to the current issue of Roast Magazine titled “Farmworkers in Coffee: Improving Conditions for the Industry’s Most Vulnerable Players” is wider in scope—it surveys the broader context of farm labor in coffee that we are working to address through our research, writing and programming.
Guatemala is among the world’s most prolific palm-oil-producing countries, but it also appears to be one of the cruelest. A new report (pdf) released by the international labor watchdog Verité details the labor and human rights problems in Guatemala’s fast-growing palm oil industry. And there are many, according to the report: Forced labor, child labor, health and safety risks, poor housing, environmental damage, and wage exploitation are just the highlights of the list of dangers facing impoverished palm oil workers and farmers in the country.
Inspectors came and went from a Walmart-certified factory in Guangdong Province in China, approving its production of more than $2 million in specialty items that would land on Walmart’s shelves in time for Christmas. But unknown to the inspectors, none of the playful items, including reindeer suits and Mrs. Claus dresses for dogs, that were supplied to Walmart had been manufactured at the factory. Instead, Chinese workers sewed the goods — which had been ordered by the Quaker Pet Group, a company based in New Jersey — at a rogue factory that had not gone through the certification process set by Walmart for labor, worker safety or quality, according to documents and interviews with officials involved.