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Brazil: Conectas & union ADERE-MG file complaint to OECD accusing Nestlé, Jacobs Douwe Egberts, Starbucks, McDonald’s, Dunkin Donuts and Illy of forced labour in their supply chains
Author: Marina Lopes, Washington Post (US), Published on: 4 September 2018
"The hidden suffering behind the Brazilian coffee that jump-starts American mornings", 31 August 2018
... When police rescued Abelar Rebouças from a coffee plantation in southern Brazil, he was bone thin. The 51-year-old worked long days for a month in the hot sun, hauling 15-gallon bags of coffee beans.
His drinking water came from a ditch near a septic tank...When his employer refused to pay his salary for a month...he was forced to live off papayas and rice...Rebouças was one of more than 800 workers freed by authorities from degrading labor conditions in 2016...Brazil has been a pioneer in the global fight to eradicate slave labor since 2003, when the government drastically expanded raids on plantations and factories, raised fines for companies that violated labor laws and began publishing a "black list" of businesses caught using forced labor...[A]...stagnant economy and tighter budgets have hampered the country's fight against such abuses. Mistreated workers are now turning to the international community for help. Dozens of victims of degrading labor conditions at coffee farms formally accused McDonald's, Dunkin' Donuts and Nestlé in late August of failing to ensure that their coffee is sourced from Brazilian farms that are free of slave labor...Nestlé and Dunkin' Donuts said they do not tolerate violations of workers' rights and are striving to identify the farms that produce their coffee beans. McDonald's did not respond...Brazil has one of the world's broadest definitions of slave labor...Brazil is the world's largest coffee producer, responsible for one-third of the world's beans. But farm owners have always depended upon cheap labor, first from more than 1.5 million African slaves who worked on the plantations in the 19th century and later from Italian immigrants. Today, most laborers come from impoverished Bahia state in Brazil...[W]orkers appealing to the OECD demanded that coffee companies be held responsible for their suppliers' labor violations."They can no longer argue that they don't know what is happening," said Tamara Hojaij, a researcher at the Getulio Vargas Foundation,...that has helped the workers build their case...The coffee workers are not the first to take Brazilian labor disputes to international organizations...[C]offee farmers are increasingly turning to automation. The rural workers' union estimates machines have cut farm labor by more than half in the past 10 years and shortened the harvesting season by two months...