Labor trafficking and worker exploitation are a large component of modern-day slavery. Promoting the Fair Trade movement and buying ethically sourced products is one way everyone can contribute to ending human trafficking and lifting struggling communities out of poverty. But now this egalitarian avenue may be trickier to navigate for those of us here in the U.S.
Recently the Fair Trade movement in the United States has been thrown into turmoil by the U.S. certifying organization, TransFair, breaking with the international organization, changing its name, lowering standards and undermining a generation of movement building.
Previously Fair Trade has been Justice driven, not simply profit driven. 'Fair Trade USA', as they now call themselves, is preaching a different model, one aspiring toward faster growth, larger markets and the inclusion of privately owned plantations over cooperatives. In order to further these aims, strict standards have been watered down making the name "Fair Trade USA" ring hollow.
Equal Exchange is an authentic, worker owned, Fair Trade company offering delicious and ethically sourced products. They have put out an excellent briefing paper laying out the background of the current controversy:Background Summary, January 2012
United Students for Fair Trade has decried recent developments and urges everybody to support Equal Exchange by signing their online statement. The call from USFT reads as follows:
From Maria Louzon, National Coordinator for USFT...
Dear United Students for Fair Trade & Friends,
As you saw in our public statement this past fall, we withdrew our support from Fair Trade USA / TransFair USA, and also abandoned the Fair Trade University campaign. After the release of our statement, we have received countless letters of support-- thank you! Although they may have supported USFT in the past, we believe that Fair Trade USA does not represent a true fair trade business. However, one of the businesses in the fair trade world that we think others should look to as a role model is Equal Exchange.
Equal Exchange is one of the only worker owned cooperative organizations that does a great job at standing for what they believe in, and does not waver in these beliefs in tough economic times (such as the current time). In fact, when more and more companies give in to Fair Trade USA's low standards, we find Equal Exchange's stance on fair trade to be stronger than ever before. To learn more about Equal Exchange and their history, click here.
As you read this email, you are probably wondering, what are we asking? Please ask your friends and work colleagues to sign Equal Exchange's public statement. They may sign as organizations and/or individuals.
Please continue to educate yourselves and others about the issues brewing in the Fair Trade world. For more
information on Equal Exchange’s perspective on the differences between Authentic Fair Trade and what TransFair USA is doing, please read Rink Dickinson’s views here. For a producer point of view, please read this.
Just like Equal Exchange, we remain engaged with small farmers and with the international Fair Trade system. We will keep you posted on events as they unfold. As always, thanks for your loyal support, your commitment, and for putting your values into action.
If you have any questions about Equal Exchange's statement or Equal Exchange in general , please call Phyllis Robinson, Education & Campaigns Manager for Equal Exchange, at 774-776-7390.
If you have any questions about United Students for Fair Trade, please contact Maria Louzon, National Coordinator for USFT, at 443-883-5226.
Thank you for your continued support!
Edited by avra cohen on Jan 18, 2012 4:54 PM