Fair Trade Trends Supports Occupy Wall Street!


Abusters's Corporate America Flag.

If you’re one of our regular (and valued) readers, you know that while we’re deeply rooted in ideals of peace and social justice, we’re primarily trendsetters. We share the Fair Trade finds we love, so you can look hip and eat/drink scrumptious goodies while doing good for the workers of the world and for the planet. We’re a fashion/shopping blog with a conscience.

However, we’d be remiss to continue sharing our fabulous Fair Trade trends with you without first commenting on the Occupy Wall Street movement. (Though we have some a-ma-zing fall finds we can’t wait to show you, so check back soon.)

Yes, we are a nation divided. Yes, our elections are tight and heated. Yes, we have become angry, dug in our heels, and stuck to our party’s agenda, sometimes turning a blind eye to injustice. But it’s time to recognize that what’s right is right. That it’s okay to cross the party line if it means following your moral code.

You may be surprised to learn that we, at Fair Trade Trends, are not all liberal democrats (though many of us are). We’re composed of folks from all walks of life who care about how the people of the world are treated. We are grad students, teachers, professors, social workers, and ministers who want to see an end to child slavery, sweatshop labor, and the unfair treatment and payment of the hardworking people who grow our food and sew our clothing. Though some of us would call ourselves liberal and others would call themselves conservative, though some are registered as republicans and some as democrats, we know that the financial, physical, sexual, and emotional abuse of the world’s workers is not okay. It’s not right, and we have vowed to take a stand through our purchases, teaching, preaching, and blogging to say, there’s another, better, fairer way to do business. One that respects people, families, communities, and the environment. That way is Fair Trade.

In this spirit, we support the non-violent Occupy Wall Street movement because it has begun to question the economic discrepancies that result from capitalism run-amok. It’s not anti-American to question the economic structure of our country. It’s not unpatriotic to wonder if our current economic practices truly reflect the values we claim to support as a country. It’s not unChristian to ask yourself (or God) if the way we produce and sell goods in this country truly reflects the teachings of the Bible. (You might find it helpful to check out James 5:1-6, Proverbs 31:8-9, Isaiah 1:17, 1 John 3:16-18,  Matthew 25:31-46Mark 12:41-44, and [of course] 1 Timothy 6:7-10 [“For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.”] and 1 Timothy 6:17-19.)

We shouldn’t feel bad or guilty for wondering, why 1% of the people in the United States control 40% of the country’s wealth. Instead, we should feel troubled that “Each year, more than 3 million people experience homelessness, including 1.3 million children(National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty). We should feel upset that last year, “14.5 percent (17.2 million) of U.S. households were food insecure at some time.” We should care that “16.2 million children lived in food-insecure households” in 2010 (ERS/USDA). When economic times are tough, it’s tempting to focus in on your own families or communities and forget the very real needs of others. However, hunger, poverty, unemployment, and homelessness don’t stop when our economy is down; they only get worse. It’s not class warfare to care about people. It’s only good, just, and right.

The Occupy Wall Street movement is varied in scope because we have a lot of real, valid problems in our country. People are hurting, struggling to feed their families and pay for their homes, and they’re wondering how this vast discrepancy in wealth is fair. Why should they lose their homes or their jobs while banks and corporations were forgiven for their transgressions? The argument is made that our major financial institutions are “too big to fail.” Does that mean that American families are too small to matter?

The questions being raised by the Occupy Wall Street movement are important, but we would also urge folks to consider how our corporations affect not only the people of the United States but all of the citizens of our global community.

According to the United Nations Human Development Report 2010, 1.44 billion people live in extreme poverty on less than $1 a day, while 2.6 billion live on less than $2 per day. It is staggering to learn that “every 3.6 seconds another person dies of starvation[,] and the large majority are children under the age of 5.” In fact, “every year six million children die from malnutrition before their fifth birthday.”

And it’s not that the poor people of the world don’t work hard and somehow don’t deserve the relative luxury we enjoy because we were lucky enough to have been born as citizens of the United States. In fact, the opposite is true.

Film Stills from Slavery: A Global Investigation (2000), showing child slaves in the Côte d’Ivoire. On the right is the image of a teenage boy who was beaten after attempting to run away from the cacao farm where he’d been working as a slave.

•  Consider the child slaves working on the cacao plantations. The chocolate industry, while it maintains a kid-friendly façade, relies on the indentured servitude and slave labor of trafficked children for the production of cacao beans. For instance, in 2000, we, in the United States, “ate 3.3 billion pounds of chocolate[, 43% of which came from the Côte d’Ivoire] and spent $13 billion on it” (Global Exchange). However, in the same year, the US State Department reported that “some 15,000 Malian children work[ed] on Ivoirian cocoa and coffee plantations. Many [were] under 12 years-of-age, sold into indentured servitude for $140 . . ., and work[ed] 12-hour days for $135 to $189 . . . per year.” According to Slavery: A Global Investigation (2000), others were never paid and have never even tasted chocolate. In fact, it is estimated that 284,000 children, many under the age of ten, work in the cocoa industry performing hazardous labor such as clearing forest and harvesting cacao pods with machetes and using pesticides and insecticides without protective gear (Global Exchange). By buying from middlemen, multinational candy corporations, such as Hershey’s, Mars, and Nestlé, can claim plausible deniability and go on profiting unchecked from these documented injustices.

"At a loom north of Lahore, Pakistan, girls are forced to work 12 hours a day, sometimes seven days a week. In Pakistan, a quarter of all carpet weavers are girls under the age of 15. (Punjab, Pakistan, 2000)" (Goodweave).

•  Child labor and trafficking is not limited to the cacao field but is a massive problem of our global economy in which, according to the International Labor Organization, “200 million children work, and a staggering 115 million at least, are subject to [the] worst forms” of child labor. The handmade carpet industry of South Asia also relies on this sort of child labor and has approximately 250,000 children working behind the looms. Many of these children, “ages 4 to 14,” have been kidnapped and sold into slave labor in which they are “forced to work as many as 18 hours a day to weave rugs destined for export markets such as the US. They are subject to malnutrition, impaired vision, deformities from sitting long hours in cramped loom sheds, respiratory diseases from inhaling wool fibers and wounds from using sharp tools.” Tragically, children who have been trafficked into the carpet industry also have a higher chance of being resold into the sex industry (GoodWeave).

"Workers packaging flowers in Columbia" (International Labor Rights Forum).

•  While women reportedly love flowers, the flower industry, which notoriously pays its workers poverty wages, clearly doesn’t love women back. Over half of the women working in Ecuador’s flower industry have faced sexual harassment at work. Further, The U.S./Labor Education in the Americas Project and The International Labor Rights Fund also reports that “66% of Colombian and Ecuadorian flower workers suffer from work-related health problems. [Since p]esticide abuse is rampant – flower workers experience higher-than-average rates of premature births, congenital malformations, and miscarriages.” And yet, these facts are hidden from the consumer, and we continue to give bouquets of flowers as signs of our affection.

"Bangladesh's garment workers are clearly among the hardest working women and men in the world, but also the most exploited. It is the giant multinationals like Wal-Mart, Asda, Tesco, H&M and others, along with BGMEA, who are driving down the wages of Bangladesh's garment workers and trapping them in misery" (The Institute for Global Labour & Human Rights).

•  And injustice isn’t the exclusive domain of the cash crop field or the rug industry; the garment industry also shares in the abuse of workers to increase profit. For instance, consider, for example, the sweatshops of Bangladesh, “the third largest exporter in the world of garments to the U.S.,” where workers, mostly women, are made to work very long hours for very little pay and often face sexual harassment, threats, and unsafe working conditions. (For more information see The Institute for Global Labour & Human Right’s The Hidden Face of Globalization (2003), which documents the life of women garment factories workers in Bangladesh).

As representative of the 3.5 million workers toiling in Bangladesh’s sweatshops, take for example the 2,500 workers, mostly young women, working in Chittagong’s Anowara Apparels factory. The women working in this factory make clothing almost exclusively for Wal-Mart, which reported 2010 Net Sales of 405 billion and an operating income of 24 billion (“Walmart 2010 Annual Report: We Save People Money So They Can Live Better”). While the Walton family’s wealth continues to grow, the starting salary for the women working in the Anowara Apparels factory prior to the controversially inadequate November 2010 Bangladesh minimum wage increase* was only 11 ½¢ per hour, with senior workers only making a maximum of 17¢ per hour. Every hour, the women each made ten pairs of jeans; for each pair they made, they were paid less than 2¢ (Institute for Global Labour & Human Rights).

Ironically, Wal-Mart’s old slogan, “Always Low Prices” more accurately reflects the abject poverty in which these women lived and will continue to live on the grossly inadequate new minimum wage of 21¢ an hour, than their new slogan, “Save Money. Live Better.” Wal-Mart’s new campaign promises are not offered to the Bangladeshi women who make the merchandise for their stores and “can only afford to rent miserable one-room hovels in slum neighborhoods.” Wal-Mart, and the other major multinationals, could easily bear the economic burden of paying their workers a living wage for their labor, but instead they are seeking the highest profit possible. Perhaps they should try a more accurate slogan: Money Matters. People Don’t.

Whether we call ourselves conservatives or liberals, whether we’re registered as republicans or democrats, whether we come from a red or blue state, no matter if our values stem from religious beliefs or other sources, we know, deep down, that the exploitation of the world’s workers is wrong. When we read about child slavery, sweatshop labor, and corporate brutality, we should feel shocked and disgusted.  We should feel outrage, and we should dedicate ourselves to ending the humanitarian crimes committed in the interest of corporate greed.

Instead, our corporations and media outlets have tricked us into believing it’s un-American to recognize and work to stop inhumanity and injustice. We are told that the U.S.’s current business practices are so sacred and fragile that we can’t dare question them. In reality, the Occupy Wall Street movement is not attempting to dismantle the roots of our economic structure; they are shining a light on a system that is already broken.  Badly broken.  They are not inciting class warfare, they are standing up to say, enough is enough.  There is right, and there is wrong, and we know the difference.

So, what can you do in your everyday life to put an end to widespread economic inequality and injustice?  One way you can send the message that you care about the ways in which U.S. corporations treat their workers (both here and around the world) is to vote with your dollars.  Purchasing Fair Trade products (coffee, chocolate, tea, food, clothing, housewares, sports equipment, etc.) lets you cast an economic ballot for a better world.

By buying fair trade products, you are saying NO! to:

  • Human Trafficking
  • Enforced Child Labor
  • Cyclical, Inescapable Poverty
  • Environmental Degradation

And, you are saying YES! to:

  • Fair Prices for Workers
  • Fair Working Conditions
  • Community Development (Schools, Health Care, etc.)
  • Environmental Sustainability

Thanks for doing your part to make the world a better place. Please stop back often as we continue to share our tastiest and trendiest Fair Trade finds.

Peace and Love,

Your Fair Trade Trendsters

* While a definite improvement from the minimum wage of 1,662 taka ($23) a month, which had remained unchanged since 2006, Bangladesh’s new minimum wage of 3,000 taka ($42) a month, effected on November 1, 2010, is considered grossly inadequate and prompted protests from garment workers. The workers were only asking for an hourly minimum wage increase to 5,000 taka ($70) a month (or 35¢ per hour) when the actual living wage rate has been estimated by the Asia Floor Wage Campaign to be just over 10,000 Taka ($139) a month. However, since the garment industry constitutes 11 billion dollars of Bangladesh’s exports, the government seems to have responded to pressure from the multinational corporations to keep the minimum wage unfairly low (International Trade Union Confederation, Labour Behind the Label, and CIA: The World Factbook). 

ATTENTION ALL TEACHERS: Global Exchange’s Fourth Annual “National Valentine’s Day of Action”

From Global Exchange:

“What is the National Valentine’s Day of Action?

We are inviting educators to teach Global Exchange’s Fair Trade cocoa curriculum.  Educators of any kind are eligible, from standard classrooms to after-school and faith-based programs.

What You Can Do:

Take action by contacting at least five teachers today!!!”

For a FREE cocoa curriculum for educators, an email to send out to teachers, letters and flyers to distribute in schools and places of worship, and a chance to win a FAIR TRADE PRIZE, visit Global Exchange.

Peace and Love,

Your Fair Trade Trendsters

Dress of the Day: Ethos Paris’s Sharav Dress

At the Ohio FAIR TRADE Expo last weekend, we had the amazing pleasure of shopping at the Fair Trade Marketplace:

“In addition to great workshops and panels, the Ohio FAIR TRADE Expo includes a Fair Trade Marketplace featuring fair trade vendors from across Ohio and the region. [The Marketplace hosts] vendors with clothing, household items, artisan creations, food, drink, and more from around the world!”

Specifically, we absolutely adored Cleveland’s own Revive Fair Trade Boutique.  While at their stand, we fell head over heals for Tara Project’s Vibrant Glass Bead Necklace:

We all wanted to take home this stunning strand of pretty beads (in person, the brass is much more muted and funky), but unfortunately, the Revive stand only had one left.  Rather than re-enact a childhood tug-of-war, which honestly would have been uncouth, we settled for a serendipitous trip to their Legacy Village store after the Expo.  Hooray!

At Revive, we stumbled upon our new favorite Dress of the Day: Ethos Paris’s Sharav Dress (Revive Carries the Aubergine and Black):

“A sleeveless, cotton, A-line sheath that offers classic styling and shaping for your work wardrobe. Add a belt in a contrasting color, and chunky jewelry for a bolder daytime look!”

“Made from certified 100 percent organic cotton, which is produced, processed and manufactured according to Fair Trade practices. No genetically modified cotton is used to make this garment.”

Don’t you just love the darting detail, which creates a semi-empire waist?  And that serrated neckline is simply fan-tab-u-lous!  While the bottom perplexed us at first, the concealable drawstring is actually a major bonus, allowing you to wear the skirt as a classic A-line or a fun, retro bubble dress.

By layering this dress over a pair of leggings and a turtleneck or long sleeve shirt, you’ll have a super stylish look ready for chillier weather:

We absolutely love this dress styled with Tara Project’s Vibrant Glass Bead Necklace (see above) and a colorful, chunky bracelet like the Tagua Twist Bracelet (Available at Revive):

“Sustainably harvested tagua nuts” make fabulous, eco-friendly jewelry as they provide a rain forest friendly industry for local artisans.  Further, this carvable nut provides a beautiful alternative to ivory, so demand is reduced for the slaugh[t]er of elephants.”

 

Hope to see you at next year’s Fair Trade Expo!  If you can’t make it to Ohio, look for a similar event in your area:

 

Peace and Love,

Your Fair Trade Trendsters

Fair Trade Films: Child Slavery in the Cocoa Industry

Yesterday, we had the amazing honor of being featured on WordPress’s “Freshly Pressed” (“The best of 362,560 bloggers, 897,850 new posts, 368,766 comments, & 128,970,065 words today on WordPress.com”):

Thank you so much for reading our post on how to “Fair Trade Your Halloween!” We loved all of your fabulous comments.

In case you’d like to learn more about the important (but hidden) horror of child slavery and abuses in the cocoa industry, check out these outstanding films:

Slavery: A Global Investigation:


The entire documentary, which “exposes slavery in the rug-making sector of Northwest India, the cocoa plantations in the Ivory Coast, and even the home of a World Bank official in Washington, D.C.” is excellent, but the section specifically on child slavery in the cocoa industry begins at minute 10:50.

A description from the production company True Vision:

“Slavery is officially banned internationally by all countries, yet despite this, in the world today there are more slaves now than ever before. In the four hundred years of the slave trade around 13 million people were shipped from Africa. Today there are an estimated 27 million slaves – people paid no money, locked away and controlled by violence. Multi-Award winning documentary makers Kate Blewett and Brian Woods – who produced the groundbreaking films The Dying Rooms, Innocents Lost and Eyes of a Child, saw this terrible exploitation with their own eyes. The result is an utterly devastating film.
. . .
“In the cocoa industry of Cote d’Ivoire, Brian and Kate found more slavery. The country produces nearly half the world’s supply (over 100 million tonnes) grown on thousands of small plantations – cocoa which finds its way into the newsagents and supermarkets of Britain. The young men are worked up to eighteen hours a day, unpaid and beaten if they try to escape. Kate and Brian interviewed slaves still working in the plantations, as well as a group of young men who had been rescued just days before. One boy, scarred from head to foot from brutal beatings, described how he and other boys were mistreated by their captors, if they attempted escape: “They would tie your hands behind your back. Then one person would beat your front and someone else your back”. Kate asks DRISSA an eloquent young man who worked for five and half years in the cocoa plantations what he would like to say to the rest of the world who eat chocolate: “They enjoyed something I suffered to make; I worked hard for them, but saw no benefit. They are eating my flesh”.
. . .

“This film isn’t all bad news, however. The film-makers also look at how slavery can be fought, both here and abroad, without making the poor poorer. In Brazil they meet charcoal workers who used to be enslaved but are now paid because of pressure brought to bear by the North American public after the slavery was exposed. In India they visit a school for ex-slaves funded by the Rugmark Foundation, an organisation that ensures that carpets sold in our shops have not been made by slaves – freeing the slaves, but keeping the rural Indian economy going. And Professor [Kevin] Bales [“from the UN Working Group on Contemporary Slavery”] explains how through organisations like Fair Trade, we can make sure that when we buy a chocolate bar, we’re not buying into slavery.”

“Slavery won the Peabody Award in 2001.

Run-Time: 80:00″

The Dark Side of Chocolate:


“Is the chocolate we eat produced with the use of child labour and trafficked children? The award winning Danish journalist Miki Mistrati decides to investigate the rumours.

“His hunt for answers brings him to Mali in West Africa, where hidden footage reveals illegal trafficking of small children to the cocoa fields in neighboring Ivory Coast. Kids as young as seven years old work . . . in the plantations where they face a dangerous job cutting down the cocoa and carrying heavy loads. Some are the victims of trafficking and most of the kids are never paid.

“Does your favourite chocolate have a bitter taste? Follow Miki Mistrati into the bush of Africa to expose; The Dark Side of Chocolate.”

Thanks again for your support and for spreading the word about Fair Trade – the sweet solution for justice in the cocoa industry.

Peace and Love,

Your Fair Trade Trendsters

Fair Trade Your Halloween!

In yesterday’s post, we encouraged you to consider Reverse Trick-or-Treating this year to raise awareness about child slavery in the cocoa industry.

[UPDATE: To learn more about the important (but hidden) horror of child slavery and abuses in the chocolate industry, check out Fair Trade Films: Child Slavery in the Cocoa Industry.]

However, if you’re planning to stay home to pass out candy, don’t worry; you can join in the Fair Trade love, too!  Make your Halloween sweet for the kids in your neighborhood (and the kids in cocoa producing countries) by passing out Fair Trade chocolate.

Check out these fun options:

  • Global Exchange’s Fair Trade Trick-or-Treat Action Pack – $17.50  (40 chocolate minis, a stack of kid-friendly info postcards, traditional Papel Picado Mexican party streamers, a 100% Eco-friendly mulberry paper Trick-or-Treat bag from Thailand, and a “Fair Trade is Boo-tiful” poster to hang on your door):

Like to keep candy on your desk for your co-workers?  Why not put out this darling, “fairly traded smoked bamboo [basket . . .] sourced from Craft Link, a non-profit that works with artisans in an effort to generate income, with a focus on ethnic minorities, street children, and artisans with disabilities.”  “Filled with 12 ounces of Equal Exchange Organic Dark Chocolate Minis,” this cute basket will sweeten up your desk with style (Available at Equal Exchange):

Thanks for making this Halloween Fair Trade!

Peace and Love,

Your Fair Trade Trendsters

Reverse Trick-or-Treating: Order Your Supplies Today!

 

Fair Trade Trends hopes you’ll consider Reverse Trick-or-Treating this year to raise awareness about child slavery in the cocoa industry.  We’ve joined in this campaign for the past three years and are always amazed that giving back can feel so good.

A description of RTT from Equal Exchange, which partners with Global Exchange to organize Reverse Trick-or-Treating:

The goal of the campaign is for trick-or-treaters nationwide to distribute informational cards, each with a piece of Fair Trade chocolate, to as many households as possible. Last year we were able to reach over 200,000 households. This year we think we can, with your help, reach even more.

You can Reverse Trick-or-Treat as an individual, family, small group, organization, school, or congregation.  The more, the merrier!

Top Reasons to Go Reverse Trick-or-Treating:

1) This is the only night of the year when it’s not super weird to go door-to-door talking about your love for chocolate.  People are expecting visitors and will most likely welcome you and your message.  Plus, you’ll be giving them a free gift of delicious chocolate – a fun surprise on a night when the wee ones demand treats and threaten tricks.

2) If you’re a parent, you might already be out trick or treating.  Social Justice Activism + Quality Time with the Kiddos = Two Stellar Birds, Baby.  If you’re not a parent but you’re also not really a kid anymore, come on, don’t you want to relive the rush of Trick-or-Treat night?  Don a pair of cat ears or an awesome cardboard robot suit? (Costumes are absolutely fabulous optional.)

3) Reverse Trick-or-Treating gives you that warm, glowy feeling inside.  (Not unlike a jack-o-lantern.)  That feeling like you’re part of something bigger than yourself and that you really have done something to make the world a better and more just place.

Sign up for supplies SOON (before Friday, October 8!) at Global Exchange or Equal Exchange.

Happy Fair Trade Month!

Our Top 3 Reasons to LOVE October:

1) If you live in a temperate deciduous forest biome, mega-awesome fall foliage!  Score!

2) Halloween gives you an excuse to gorge yourself on lollipops and chocolate bars!

3) It’s FAIR TRADE MONTH!

Keep reading Fair Trade Trends this October for awesome tips on how to celebrate this Fair Trade Month in style.

Peace and Love,

Your Fair Trade Trendsters