Three California law firms are seeking an injunction to stop US retail chain Costco Wholesale Co selling prawns unless they are labeled as the produce of slavery.
The firms have filed a class action lawsuit against Costco and its Thai seafood supplier, alleging that Costco knowingly sold prawns from a supply chain tainted by slavery.
The claim, lodged in the federal court in San Francisco on Wednesday, alleges that Costco has for several years bought and resold farmed prawns from the leading Thai food group Charoen Pokphand Foods PCL (CP Foods), and other companies, which have sourced the raw material for their feed from ships manned by slaves.
The plaintiff in the class action is a California resident, Monica Sud, who has bought prawns from the membership-based wholesale grocer, but the class action potentially affects millions of customers in California, the US’ most populous state.
The action follows a Guardian investigation last year that tracked the complex prawn supply chain and reports by the UN and non-governmental organizations, including the Environmental Justice Foundation, that human trafficking for forced labor and slavery have become endemic in the Thai fishing sector.
The investigation established that large numbers of men who were bought and sold like animals and held against their will on fishing boats off Thailand were integral to the production of farmed prawns sold in leading supermarkets around the world, including the top four global retailers: Wal-Mart Stores Inc, Carrefour SA, Costco and Tesco PLC.
The investigation found that the world’s largest prawn farmer, CP Foods, was buying fishmeal, which it feeds to its farmed prawns, from some suppliers that owned, were operating or buying from fishing boats manned by slaves.
Men who have managed to escape from boats feeding in to the supply chain of CP Foods and other companies like it told of horrific conditions, including 20-hour shifts, regular beatings, torture and execution-style killings. Some were at sea for numerous years and some had seen fellow slaves murdered in front of them.
“This lawsuit seeks to give Californians confidence that they are not serving slavery for dinner,” said Derek Howard of the Howard Law Firm in Mill Valley and co-lead counsel in the California lawsuit. “Slavery in the Thai industry is a huge problem. Costco has the clout to dictate terms to its suppliers and sub-suppliers and enforce its policies against slave labor.”
The defendants have 30 days to file a defense.
The Guardian has approached both Costco and CP Foods for comment on the legal action.
Following the Guardian report last year, Costco said at the time that it would require its “suppliers of Thai shrimp to take corrective action to police their feedstock sources.”
Its code of practice says it does not tolerate human trafficking or slavery in its supply chains.
CP Foods said last year that it condemned all trafficking and slavery in the strongest possible terms.
Other retailers identified as part of the supply chain also told the Guardian that they condemned all forms of slavery and were part of specific programs to address the issue in the Thai fishing sector.
NO VIRUS BLUES: A SEMI Taiwan official said that the virus does not slow down the global semiconductor industry’s investment in manufacturing equipment The production value of the nation’s semiconductor industry is expected to grow 16.7 percent this year from last year, outpacing the global industry’s 3.3 percent growth, industry association SEMI said yesterday. That would help Taiwan safeguard its second spot in the global semiconductor market with a production value of more than NT$3 trillion (US$102.73 billion), SEMI Taiwan president Terry Tsao (曹世綸) told a media briefing in Taipei for the Semicon Taiwan trade show beginning today. The global semiconductor industry’s production value is expected to increase to US$426 billion this year, SEMI said. In terms of semiconductor equipment investment, equipment billings from Taiwanese firms
Intel Corp has received licenses from US authorities to continue supplying certain products to Huawei Technologies Co (華為), a company spokesman said yesterday. Washington has been pushing governments around to world to squeeze out Huawei, saying that the telecom giant would hand data to Beijing for espionage. From Monday last week, new curbs have barred US companies from supplying or servicing Huawei. This week, the state-backed China Securities Journal reported that Intel had received permission to supply Huawei. China’s Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp (SMIC, 中芯國際), which uses US-origin equipment to make chips for Huawei and other companies, last week confirmed that it had sought
INVEST IN TAIWAN: A metal components casting firm and the world’s largest maker of aluminum bicycle rims also obtained approvals to join the program Solar Applied Materials Technology Co (SOLAR, 光洋應用材料), a part of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co’s (TSMC, 台積電) “green supply chain,” has pledged to invest NT$1 billion (US$34.1 million) to build a new plant at the Tainan Technology Industrial Park (台南科技工業區), the Ministry of Economic Affairs said yesterday. SOLAR has been collaborating with TSMC to extract precious metals from waste and reuse them as “sputtering target” material in high-end semiconductor manufacturing, a TSMC press release issued in May said. Established in 1978, SOLAR also offers key materials and integrated services to customers in the optoelectronics, information and communications technology, petrochemicals and consumer electronics industries,
‘SWARM TECH’: Joint venture FARobot is to develop autonomous mobile robots that would first be deployed in Hon Hai’s factories to optimize production efficiency Hon Hai Precision Industry Co (鴻海精密) and Adlink Technology Inc (凌華科技) have formed a robotic venture that aims to use “swarm technology” to create robots that can communicate with one another on the factory floor to optimize production efficiency. Hon Hai is Apple Inc’s leading iPhone assembler and the world’s largest contract electronics maker, while Adlink supplies industrial computers and Internet of Things solutions. Through a subsidiary, Hyield Venture Capital Co (鴻揚創投), Hon Hai holds a 51 percent stake in autonomous mobile robot (AMR) developer FARobot (法博智能移動), while Adlink owns the remaining 49 percent. Together, the two companies put up NT$200