Bumble Bee Foods to remove labor claims from marketing materials

A Bumble Bee Instagram post pledging the company "will always advocate for our fishers."

Bumble Bee Foods has agreed to remove claims about its fishing practices and working conditions from its marketing materials as part of a settlement of a lawsuit brought by Global Labor Justice-International Labor Rights Forum (GLJ-ILRF).

As part of a settlement reached between the two parties announced 7 March, 2023, Bumble Bee Foods said it will remove the terms “fair and safe supply chain” and “fair and responsible working conditions” from its website, social media presence, and other public advertising, for 10 years.

Originally filed in the U.S. Superior Court for the District of Columbia, the GLJ-ILRF suit alleged Bumble Bee Foods its owner, Kaohsiung, Taiwan-based FCF Co., engaged in unfair and unsafe labor practices. Among its specific allegations, the labor organization accused the two companies of creating internal labor standards that offered “far less protection for workers than is available under international law,” including standards set by the International Labor Organization’s Work in Fishing Convention 188.

Even FCF’s inadequate standards are largely unenforced, with only a minority of its long-term suppliers falling under the company’s social auditing program, and as many as 40 percent of the vessels it sources from are free agents whose labor conditions FCF cannot control. FCF does not appear to have any formal process of identifying and addressing human rights risks among its suppliers. Bumble Bee’s own monitoring policies are also woefully insufficient, with Bumble Bee itself admitting in 2020 that it had only audited 30 supplier vessels,” the suit alleged. “Tragically, these policy failures are not just theoretical. They have enabled the dangerous, unfair, and abusive treatment of Bumble Bee’s workers.”

Bumble Bee said in a March 2022 statement to SeafoodSource it “adamantly” disagreed with the lawsuit’s contentions.

The lawsuit demanded Bumble Bee prove its claims to “best-in-class” worker safety standards. It also challenged the company’s claim it was a champion of sustainable fishing. It accused Bumble Bee of acting in violation of Washington D.C.’s Consumer Protection Procedures Act, which allows nonprofit organizations to bring consumer protection claims on behalf of the general public.

“This settlement is a step in the right direction," GLJ-ILRF Senior Staff Attorney Sahiba Gill said in a press release.

Representatives of Bumble Bee Foods did not respond to a request from SeafoodSource for comment on the settlement.

GLJ-ILRF recently expanded a campaign urging seafood companies sourcing tuna from distant-water fishing vessels to require working Wi-Fi connections be installed onboard to advance the implementation of fair and responsible working conditions for fishers.

“Now the work continues to ensure fishers in Bumble Bee’s supply chain and across the sector fish in decent conditions. Wi-Fi access for all fishers in the Taiwan fleet is a first step in that direction,” GLJ-ILRF Senior Seafood Campaign Coordinator Kimberly Rogovin said in a statement.

Image courtesy of Bumble Bee Foods


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