Ben & Jerry’s has been hit with a class action lawsuit and charges of hypocrisy for the use of child labor in its supply chain, despite the ice cream maker’s declared commitment to social justice causes, an image it holds up as a key part of its branding.
The company’s involvement with child labor came to light shortly after it settled a high-profile legal battle with its parent firm over an attempted boycott of Israel, which Israel supporters viewed as prejudiced. The Ben & Jerry’s board responsible for the boycott has stayed mum about the labor issue, while its leader has continued to take shots at Israel.
The Vermont-based company claimed in recent filings that it did not use child labor in its supply chain and has avoided divulging when it found out about the matter.
The labor issue surfaced publicly in a New York Times investigation late last month. The report revealed that American corporations and their suppliers use underage migrant laborers for dangerous and grueling factory jobs, including in dairy facilities that supply Ben & Jerry’s.
Many of the children fled destitution in Central America, arrived in the US as unaccompanied minors, and were then exploited for labor. They work to pay off debts to smugglers, send cash to their families back home, and pay for living costs. The jobs keep many of them out of school. The US Department of Labor said it would take action to rein in illegal child migrant labor in response to the report.