For the last 15 years Fair Trade USA has worked primarily in the developing world, empowering farmers and farm workers to fight poverty and improve their lives through better trade. Through this journey we’ve also become all too aware of the challenges and injustices faced by laborers in the global north. Issues like low pay, unsafe working conditions, exposure to harmful chemicals, child and forced labor, and sexual harassment are unfortunately without borders in both the agricultural and manufacturing sector.
These realities, many occurring in our own backyard, have driven a growing interest from consumers, companies, farms, NGOs and retailers to explore the possibility of Fair Trade in a broader global setting.
To learn more about this opportunity, Fair Trade USA began conducting preliminary research and consulting with stakeholders back in 2009. Our goal was to better understand production in different regions, identify key issues, and learn about other Fair Trade initiatives already in development. Through this exploration we found that farm work remains among the most dangerous and lowest paying occupations anywhere in the world, not just in the global south. The same goes for factory work. Our hypothesis was that the Fair Trade model has the potential to create new opportunities and benefits for those left behind by the industrialized farming economy and the manufacturing shift overseas.
To continue this work, we’ve recently partnered with a grower in Canada, on a hands-on learning journey to find out what Fair Trade might mean for the 100+ farm workers employed there (the majority of whom migrate from Central America on temporary work visas), as well as for their families and communities back home. With the implementation of the Fair Trade standards come important benefits to workers, specifically around areas like health and safety, gender equality, working hours, recruitment best practices, and freedom of association.
We've also recently certified the first apparel factory in the United States, a cotton-basics manufacturer in the Los Angeles garment district, to begin driving benefits to low-income factory workers. Many of the workers are first generation immigrants working to build better lives for their families and communities.
For more information about this work please contact us as email@example.com