Popular coffee chain Starbucks has found itself in hot water after a documentary exposed several Nicaraguan farms that supplied the company relied on child labor. Worse still, the children were subjected to grueling working conditions and were hardly paid for their services.
According to The Guardian, some of the children found working on the farms appeared to be as young as 8 years old. The youngsters worked eight hours each day, six days a week — 15 hours more than the average American worker clocks in each week.
The children were paid for their labor by the weight of beans collected, despite their physical limitations. Pressured to meet demands, children carried sacks that weighed as much as 100 pounds.
Despite the demanding work, they were paid little. A typical child worker was paid less than $6.50 per day, earning around $0.75 per hour.
“The [human rights] conventions are very clear in that they don’t want children’s education to be compromised,” Oliver Holland, a human rights lawyer who saw the program said.
“If children are working 40 hours a week, there is no way they can also be having a proper education. These are all unsafe conditions for children essentially, and in those conditions children simply shouldn’t be working,” he added.
The use of child labor was found in at least seven of the farms that the investigative team visited. All of them have a connection to Starbucks.
However, the coffee behemoth wasn’t the only one to get caught up in the scandal. Swiss company Nespresso was also accused of purchasing coffee beans from the same fields. Hollywood actor George Clooney, who is one of the company’s longtime advertisers, expressed his dismay at the child labor practices.
“I was surprised and saddened to see this story,” the O Brother, Where Art Thou? star stated.
“Clearly this board and this company still have work to do. And that work will be done. I would hope that this reporter will continue to investigate these conditions and report accurately if they do not improve,” he continued.
Both Starbucks and Nespresso have denounced the findings and reaffirmed their commitment to decent labor practices. Starbucks also made it known that they had not used any of the farms documented in the program in their “most recent harvest season.”
It is not the first time that the Seattle-based company has faced public relations woes. This past December, the chain was forced to apologize to police after two officers were denied service at a location in California.