Friday, March 21, 2014

Why a Moderate is Conflicted

Hi guys I'm back!

In the past few weeks I have been plagued with the misconceptions regarding fair trade.
Opposing arguments often revolve around pricing of fair trade merchandise, and the idea that any kind of work in other less developed counties is a positive thing.

A hard core fair trade enthusiast and many other humanitarian groups would say something along the lines of how it's worth the price to ensure human safety and living wages, and that simply giving jobs to the less developed countries is simply not enough.

Honestly, I think both arguments hold (at least some) truth, and I don't think it would take a brain surgeon to figure out which one I support more considering you're reading a fair trade blog.

I would first like to point out that these misconceptions and extremeness on BOTH ends of conflict epitomizes exactly why I think little is accomplished and agreed upon in society.
As much as I hate to humanize corporations and business it is silly to think that people would oppose fair wages and safety if they didn't also have some kind of reasoning behind it. Do I agree with giving unfair wages and sacrificing worker safety under these circumstances? No. But it is important to understand why business and corporations would resort to this. After all how can we human society if we don't even understand each other?

One of my personal missions is to minimize human suffering and extreme poverty. I personally will always feel a moral obligation to this and value buying fair trade. On another level I can't help but feel conflicted when taking into account the growing dominance of large corporations and the shrinking of small businesses.

Let me tell you how I feel:

I admit that sometimes fair trade merchandise IS much more expensive than other similar products. I also agree that it is, to me worth the price. The problem I see developing is not a new phenomena. In reality I don't think any business or corporation is in favor of mistreating their workers. They are trying to remain competitive in their field of business. Many small businesses wouldn't be able to compete or stay in business if not for the Free Trade Act enabling them to industrialize in foreign nations and pay less to their workers. I do want to support small businesses, at the same time I feel in a stronger and morally driven sense that American owned companies have a moral obligation to treat their workers fairly, even if their industry is out-of-country they should be giving workers fair conditions and wages based on price of living in that particular country, and no less. I feel that the fair trade symbol is becoming a marketing strategy directed at humanitarian groups, and not a necessity to businesses and corporations. Many completely fair trade organizations have expensive products not because they are paying their workers more (although that may increase the price to some degree) but because the product is ALSO organic, vegan, high quality, handmade, or supporting another group also, only further appealing to humanitarian driven consumers.  I hope I'm wrong about this but it is a worry of mine.
I won't get too far into my thinking on this topic but I often wonder why it is so expensive and challenging for businesses to achieve the fair trade goal. Sometimes when I ask small business or farm owners why they don't have a fair trade certification, even if they are or claim to have fair trade values they often respond with lack of funds, which just circles back to my original claim that small businesses are withering away and holding on by a hair- giving them reason to resort to non-fair trade values.

Here is what I hope and what we should do:

Pressure corporations and large business to get a fair trade certification based on American responsibility.
I know I ask this a thousand times from all of you, but I can not stress how important it is to talk about Fair Trade. Throw the words and ideas around, the more people know the more powerful the symbol becomes.
Write letters to corporations, make them consider Fair Trade as an important quality to consider. After all no CEO wants their company to be in the spotlight over how cruel employers they are. Oftentimes you'll get personalized responses.
And of course try to prioritize buying fair trade items over similar non-fair trade ones. If companies or suppliers feel the fair trade items are more popular, they will buy more and therefore support fair trade also.

I know this is long and I thank you guys for listening to my thoughts and concerns. I'm not saying I have all the answers, but I think this might help.
Always E-mail me with any responses, questions, or concerns.