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Ben & Jerry’s Hypocrisy Comes to the Fore (Again) With Child Labor Revelations

If Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield aka Ben & Jerry thought being spotted at an Israeli street food restaurant in was awkward, it pales in comparison to this:

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.

A Ben & Jerry’s representative appeared to acknowledge the issue to the New York Times, saying the company cooperated with labor groups to monitor working conditions at its suppliers and claiming that if migrant children needed to work full time, it was better for them to work at a well-monitored workplace.

In response to the report, a plaintiff filed a federal class action lawsuit against Ben & Jerry’s in a New York court, claiming the company had misrepresented its ethical commitments to consumers.

The case argues that Ben & Jerry’s charges a premium for its products, partly based on its image as a socially conscious company, and that consumers would not have bought from the company, or paid as much, if they had been aware of its suppliers’ use of child labor. The plaintiff, Dovid Tyrnauer, sought damages and other commitments from Ben & Jerry’s for breach of trust.

During the legal proceedings involving the company’s attempted boycott of Israel, Ben & Jerry’s repeatedly argued, including in the same New York court where the class action lawsuit was filed, that its conscientious image was a core part of its business strategy and financial success.

“While Ben & Jerry’s purports to use ethical supply chains and professes concern about farmworker welfare, the reality could not be further from the truth. Migrant child labor is used in Ben & Jerry’s supply chains,” the lawsuit claimed. “Ben & Jerry’s wishes to have its ice cream and eat it too. It wishes to sell premium priced products with pompous virtue-signaling representations regarding its supposedly ethical sourcing, all the while migrant child labor is used in its supply chains. Put simply, this is a case about greed run amok.”

The Ben & Jerry’s independent board tasked with protecting the company’s “social mission,” which decided to boycott Israeli settlements, has not commented on the child labor issue.

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