business news in context, analysis with attitude

The New York Times reports that "many major U.S. companies — including some of the country’s biggest consumer brands — say they are taking steps to eliminate child labor in their domestic supply chains amid revelations that children are working throughout American manufacturing and food production.

"As hundreds of thousands of migrant children have crossed the southern border without their parents since 2021, growing numbers have ended up in dangerous, illegal jobs in every state, including in factories, slaughterhouses and industrial dairy farms, the New York Times has reported in a series of articles.

"Working to exhaustion, children have been crushed by construction equipment, gotten yanked into industrial machinery and fallen to their deaths from rooftops."

While companies have audited their supply chains in the past, the Times has reported that they have been largely ineffective:  "Those inspectors repeatedly failed to spot ongoing child labor violations … Auditors left factories in the afternoon, even though children are most often hired to work at night. They examined paperwork to check ages, but children tend to submit fake documents. And they focused on workers hired directly by plants, although children are often brought in by outside staffing agencies or contractors."

Now, these companies are ramping up their audits.

For example, "McDonald’s says it is requiring private inspectors to review overnight shifts at slaughterhouses that provide some of its meat, where children as young as 13 were cleaning heavy machinery. Suppliers for Ford Motor Company must now scrutinize the faces of employees when they arrive for work. Costco is commissioning more audits with Spanish-speaking inspectors … Starbucks, Whole Foods and PepsiCo are revising the kinds of audits they require at their suppliers. The changes include enhancing reviews of night shifts and shifts run by outside contractors, such as cleaning companies, and moving away from announcing audits in advance."

And more:

"Smithfield Foods, the country’s largest pork producer, said it would bring in auditors annually to check the night shifts at 41 slaughterhouses and processing plants. The company has also posted signs in Spanish and other languages around its plants emphasizing age requirements.

"Tyson Foods said it had added unannounced audits for sanitation shifts, and instructed security guards to watch for young faces. Still, some shareholders are pressing for more robust action.

"Perdue Farms, where a 14-year-old’s arm was maimed while he was working for a cleaning company at a Virginia slaughterhouse, said it has added age verification audits for contractors. After the Times reported last year that children hired by an outside staffing agency were working on Cheerios and other household products at the contract manufacturer Hearthside Food Solutions, the company said it had begun requiring workers to prove their ages with government-issued photo identification."

KC's View:

This stuff is disgusting, and I'm glad it is getting more attention - companies should not be using child labor, and no US company should be sourcing products from vendors that use child labor.

It isn't just a question of morality, though that should be enough.  (Who are these people who use children in their facilities?  Do they not have children?  Have they never met a child?  Has their greed and avarice grown to the point that their moral compasses do not exist anymore?)

But beyond these questions of ethical and moral behavior, there also is the fact that as places like the New York Times expose these transgressions, public outcry and recriminations against any company profiting from child labor will grow.  Which could put their long-term viability in question.

And should.

Shame on all these people.