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June 27, 2011 / Green America

What do we want? Fair Trade! When? Now!

Wednesday June 8th was a sizzling day to be in Times Square, and not just because it was 97 degrees and sunny! Students and others from across New York and even further came together in front of the Hershey store to say “What do we want? Fair Trade? When do we want it? Now!”

In fact, so many people showed up for the “Raise the Bar, Hershey” Rally that we had to expand to both sides of Broadway. We shouted call and response chants from one side of the street to the other to make sure that everyone in Times Square could hear what we were asking for.

Students from Brooklyn, Manhattan, the Bronx, New Jersey and others came to the rally as a field trip, since they had been learning about social justice in their classrooms. Many of them had made posters with original messages like “Hershey Tastes Good, Feels Bad”. See pictures from the rally here.

Some students shouted cheers into the megaphone as they led their peers in the march. Others came in costume, such as the three girls who wore a chain to represent forced labor, and two students from Elizabeth, NJ wrote and performed an original piece of slam poetry.

Kerry Kennedy, Executive Director of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, and Lee Cutler, the secretary treasurer of the New York State United Teachers Union, delivered passionate speeches, calling on America’s largest chocolate company to do something about the use of child labor in its supply chain. See Kerry Kennedy’s speech on YouTube.  The band Left on Red performed an amazing set of chocolate- and child-themed songs.

The energy of the crowd was electric, and contagious. Passersby were shocked to learn about the issues and enthusiastically signed our petitions. Some even grabbed extra posters to get in on the action.

No one in the crowd was shouting “Don’t buy Hershey”.  No one called for a boycott. Rather, we wanted to let Hershey know that as an American company, we expect Hershey to care as much about the children of cocoa growing communities as it cares about kids here in the US.  It’s about equality and social justice.

Fair Trade is creating a more just world by putting the human face back into trade and building more transparent relationships between producers and consumers. Once people understand that chocolate comes from cocoa, almost 70% which is grown in egregious conditions in West Africa, they don’t want anything to do with it.  They’d rather see a Fair Trade mark on their chocolate bar, so they know that their sweet treat has not caused children half way around the world to spend their childhoods working in the cocoa fields.

After more than 10 years since signing the Harkin-Engel protocol and committing to end forced and child labor in the cocoa industry, and almost a year since we Green Americans initially called on Hershey to “Raise the Bar,” it’s about time Hershey made a real commitment to prevent the use of forced, child, and trafficked labor in its cocoa production.

This rally made it clear that when we come together our voices are loud and we are powerful. When we band together as consumers, companies listen.

It is my hope that Hershey will listen to the call of the kids in Times Square and make a real commitment to eliminating child labor in the cocoa fields in West Africa.  If it does, the company will be rewarded by children and concerned parents around the country for doing the right thing. The answer here should be easy!

This rally made our expectations clear-we are calling on Hershey to put an end to child labor in its chocolate, and we are asking them to do it now!

Help us keep the heat on Hershey by taking action this summer:

  1. Take part in our We Want More from our S’mores action
  2. Host a movie night and show the Dark Side of Chocolate
  3. Collect petition signatures in your community

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