Changing the World, One Chocolate Bar at a Time

ILRF has had the great privilege of participating in many, many
victories over the past two decades, including the first industry-wide
initiatives to tackle child labor through the Foul Ball campaign on
soccer balls, and our work to establish the Rugmark Foundation;
legislative victories in the form of new worker rights provisions in
the Generalized System of Preferences, the investment guarantees of the
Overseas Private Investment Corporation, and amendments to the Tariff
Act of 1930; and the landmark legal victory in the Unocal case on
behalf of forced laborers in Burma.  The day to day fights can be
frustrating and overwhelming, and it's refreshing to take a moment to
look back on what has been achieved.  Many of these victories were the
result of many, many years of dogged advocacy; nothing was ever gained
overnight.  The Unocal case took eight years to make its way through US
courts, but provided us with a groundbreaking precedent once we reached
the end.

Unbelievably, ILRF has not only survived, but thrived
in the current political environment.  We are working under a US
administration that is arguably the most corporate-cozy and
labor-hostile that we have seen in over a century.  The challenges are
enormous, but our base of support both within the US and around the
world is growing steadily.

For this and a host of other
reasons, last year Terry Collingsworth (who has led the ILRF since
Pharis' retirement in 2000) and I came to a decision that the
litigation work deserved its own home.  Terry is now suing the world's
largest and most powerful multinational corporations on behalf of
otherwise powerless victims in the developing world.  His clients are
victims of human rights abuses perpetrated by ExxonMobil, Walmart,
Chevron, Nestle, Dyncorp and others.  At our celebration last week, we
announced the formal launch of a new legal defense fund to be
established and led by Terry Collingsworth.  The International Labor
Rights Defenders will be a separate organization from the original
ILRF, but we will continue to work closely together to promote our
mutual and shared vision of a world where workers can obtain justice
for violations of their fundamental rights.  The organizations will be
fully separate by the end of 2006.

As for ILRF itself, we have
plenty of work to do on all fronts.  At our celebration last Thursday
we honored our partners from Colombia with whom we have worked long and
hard on the CocaCola campaign; we were thrilled that Javier Correa from
SINALTRAINAL was able to join us and say a few words as we prepare to
launch new campaign work against Nestle corporation for its complicity
in the murder of trade union leaders both in Colombia and in the
Philippines.  Also joining us was Kate Chen, a courageous Walmart
supplier factory worker from China, who had just finished a month-long
speaking tour around the United States, educating US consumers about
working conditions in Chinese factories.

Finally, in keeping
with the Halloween theme, we distributed Fair Trade trick-or-treat
candy, provided by one of our favorite companies, Equal Exchange, to
all partygoers!  As some of you may know we've been working against the
odds for over five years to push the world's largest commodity traders
and chocolate companies to clean up the child labor in their cocoa
supply chain.  After five years, all we are getting from most of these
companies is empty promises of some vague action to be taken sometime
in future (for a more extended analysis of what the chocolate industry
has and hasn't done, see my colleague Brian Campbell's excellent recent
analysis on our website at ).  However, for the
first Halloween since our cocoa campaign started, our allies in the
fair trade movement have succeeded in getting Fair Trade trick or treat
candy onto supermarket shelves (well, some supermarket shelves anyway-
we still have some work to do!)  As a chocolate lover and a mother of
two small trick-or-treaters, I can't tell you how delighted I am that
kids around the United States will have a choice this Halloween to
become ethical consumers. I am optimistic that the penetration of Fair
Trade chocolate into the US market will give the big guys like Nestle
and Hershey's a wake-up call and finally push them to take meaningful
action.  And if it doesn't . . . well, there's always litigation . . .