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Trading Fairly

The global market offers an endless assortment of products, but not all laborers producing these products are working under ethical conditions. As consumers we are becoming more aware of our responsibility to be aware of the treatment of employees and the environment in the production process.

Fair Trade USA is a non-profit organization that certifies and promotes the fair trade of products in this country. According to Fair Trade USA, their mission is to enable sustainable development and community empowerment, benefiting farmers, workers, consumers, and the planet. Their goal is to teach farmers in developing countries how to build sustainable businesses and positively influence their countries socially, economically, and environmentally. Considering the cultural differences in various countries, they encourage communities to determine for themselves as to how funds are best used.

Fair Trade products are not necessarily organic, but they do promote organic farming and offer farmers training on how to accomplish that. They also ban all GMO (Genetically Modified) products, restrict pesticides and fertilizers, and help protect water and other natural resources.

Fair Trade USA does not monitor business practices. They focus on products such as coffee, tea, herbs, cocoa, fresh fruit and vegetables, sugar, beans, grains, flowers, nuts, oil, butter, honey, and wine.

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) also is working toward fair labor practices. Their Fair Food Program offers education on labor rights. The difference with CIW is that they are a worker-based human rights organization. They also have a third-party that monitors compliance and conducts regular audits. In addition, they also are a leader in the movement to end human trafficking.

After a national boycott of Taco Bell, the company agreed to meet the CIW’s demands to improve wages and working conditions of Florida tomato pickers. McDonald’s and Burger King soon followed as well as Whole Foods, Subway, and Chipotle Mexican Grill.

CIW’s work is recognized worldwide and honored with awards including the 2013 Freedom from Want Medal from the Roosevelt Institute; the 2012 WhyHunger Food Sovereignty Award; 2012 National Resources Defense Council’s Food Justice Award; from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the 2010 Hero Acting to End Modern-Day Slavery Award; the 2009 Benny Award from the Business Ethics Network; the 2007 Anti-Slavery Award from Anti-Slavery International of London; the 2006 Paul and Sheila Wellstone Award; a 2005 commendation from FBI Director Robert Mueller, the 2005 Harry Chapin Self-Reliance Award from World Hunger Year, the 2003 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award; and the 1998 Cardinal Bernardin New Leadership Award from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development.

The promotion of fair labor treatment across the globe is important for several reasons. When we purchase products where people are treated improperly we participate in that injustice. We are a party to that sin. On the other hand, when we purchase products produced in a just manner, we promote the laborers and their ability to support themselves which helps to maintain peace in those regions, and ultimately, the world.

©2013, Mary K. Doyle

For more information on Fair Trade USA and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, see:

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