“The New Conscious Consumer: Expanding Economic Justice Through Fair Trade”

The first part of the reading that really stood out to me was the text that described Deuteronomu 15:7-11. This text describes an event in 2005 in which partners from Just Trade put together boxes filled with Fair Trade good to sell. The church that sold them made a profit from the sales and was hoping they would be able to buy the artisans something they really needed. When they were able to get in contact with the artisans, the artisans asked if the funds could be donated to the victims of Hurricane Katrina in the United States. The artisans felt honored they were able to give money to Americans because they themselves had been the victims for so long.
I was really impressed by this story because it helped me to see how a fair trade relationship really benefits both parties. Often, I feel that relationships end up so out of balance because one is always giving more than they are getting. It’s not that I feel both parties deserve to constantly be getting, but when there is a balance, the relationship seems more valuable because there is not a constant feeling of something being owed to the giving party. I also found it really impressive that the artisans were willing to give back to the United States when we have so many organizations within our own country that were supporting the Hurricane Katrina disaster efforts. In many of the countries where fair trade efforts are focused, there was no inside support from the government or wealthier people of the country. Many of these people solely depend on support from the United States and wealthier countries to support them. The fact that the artisans were willing to look past the fact that the disaster from Hurricane Katrina would be fixed in due time when their own lives would remain very difficult for years to come is truly inspiring.
The second part of the reading that really stood out to me is the text following Acts 16:13-15. In this passage there is one quote in particular that really stands out to me, “we can look up at our husbands and they have to look back at us with full respect.” This section describes how the women in Huayanay have been able to support their families by learning how to weave. For these women, this was an incredible opportunity because they were never given an opportunity to work and were therefore seen as lesser than the men.
The fact that there are countries where women are not given the same opportunities as men is simply baffling to me. Here in the United States, women and men have all of the same opportunities; we can get the same education, play the same supports, and hold the same jobs. Women are no longer expected to stay home and serve as a housewife, in fact in April it was reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics that 59% of US households had two working parents. As a female entering the work force in the very near future, I could never imagine not having the opportunity to become educated and enter the work force. At 21, I feel I have a sense of independence and am looking forward to taking time to work and support myself before settling down and starting a family. This is a privilege that I most certainly take for granted each and every day. Reading this article reminded me that I am lucky to have this privilege but also helped me to realize just how much fair trade efforts are helping others to slowly gain privileges.

Write comment now Authorin: Shannon McKenna Tue Sep 10, 2013 9:11 am

"Using our Purchasing Power for Justice & Hope"

Early on in "Using our Purchasing Power for Justice & Hope" the authors make the point that we, the consumers, vote with our dollars. This concept is the perfect counter-argument to the fiduciary duty that corporations hold to their shareholders - usually a large corporation would argue that they have to run the business as cheaply as possible in order to maximize shareholder wealth. What if, instead of keeping consumers in the dark about their pipelines, consumers were aware of where their products came from and demanded a living wage paid to the producers? Then, couldn't it become possible that consumers turn away from anything less, and the corporation would benefit (financially) from doing the right thing? A well informed consumer is a powerful tool for change.

I found it startling that producers of coffee, for example, generally receive 1-5% of a final sale price. There either must be a lot of middle-men, or a tremendous final sale margin. Either way, the fair trade practice of paying 20-30% seems a lot better. I couldn't imagine embarking on any project, or opening any company, if all I could ever hope to realize was 1-5% of final sale price. It would take tremendous sales volume to make any 1-5% endeavor worthwhile, far more than a farmer could ever produce.

I also found it startling that working harder often results in less return on investment, for a farmer. The more a farmer works the land, the harder it becomes for other crops to grow, and the land (along with their way of life) erodes away. That flies in the face of the typical "talking head" maxim that people can fix anything, including their living situation, just by "working harder."

One of the most important points from this selection was the concept of working with dignity. There is something that personally reverberates with me about a person being proud of what they do, the goods they produce, that it is sold in the U.S., that they are paid well for their work, etc. The need to do good and feel good about your work is universally understandable, not confined to a corporate job or American lifestyle.

Write comment now Authorin: Stacie Schwartz Tue Sep 10, 2013 8:43 am

Sept. 10th: Using our Purchasing Power for Justice and Hope Response

-The first part of this article that stuck out to me was the story on page 10 that describes briefly the documentary “Black Gold.” It talks about the struggle with production of coffee beans in Ethiopia, and the money issues the people face. It states that the more coffee growers created the less they made due to problems with fair wages.
- I was shocked to read this because like the article says, I believed “the more you produce, the more you profit.” The notion of “hard work pays off” is a false idea in this case, and makes me realize that not everywhere is as fair as I assumed. I have noticed that I am unaware of the types of work environments other people around the world experience, and that in many places it is unjust.

- An uplifting section of this article was the story about the artisan group, El Mercurio. One woman, Yody Moran Trillo, describes her feelings towards the job she has by saying that it gives her dignity. She, and the women she works with, feel more respected and are proud of the quality of the goods they produce. She also talks about a specific time when a coworker who broke her arm. This injury made her unable to produce goods, and technically meant she should not have been paid. Instead, as a group the artisans decided to give the woman her usual income even though she was unable to contribute to the production.
- The people in this artisan group make me hopeful about humanity. I really liked the part about still paying the artisan with the broken arm. It shows the amount of respect they have towards one anther, and that business can still be compassionate. There are many companies these days that are so cut throat that nothing else matters, but this shows that there still are many industries and places that put people first.

Write comment now Authorin: vmcal Tue Sep 10, 2013 8:39 am

Blog #1: In-Class Video and "Using our Purchasing Power for Justice and Hope"

1. The first aspect of class that impacted me was the video of Christina making the sweater. I have always wondered exactly what goes into the process of producing clothing. Seeing the actual machinery and technique that was used was very impressive. I did not realize how painstakingly meticulous each worker has to be with each thread of the sweater. It is definitely an art that is not appreciated by people who buy clothing with only the price and brand name in mind, rather than where the clothing actually came from.

2. The second aspect of class that impacted me came from the article. "Fair trade encourages artisans to work together rather than compete with one another." This is interesting because it is the polar opposite of what goes on in America. What drives the American financial industry? Competition. People and products are in a daily competition against one another with the sole goal of attracting the most customers and gaining the most profit. There is no other consideration in the process of producing products than the bottom line.

Actual Responses

1. Living in a first-world country inhibits our ability to experience how the less fortunate people of the world make a living. When I was able to see Christina making the sweater, it opened my eyes to how hard someone has to work for such little money. It made me think of corporate America and how people are paid huge sums of money to attend meetings and create spreadsheets on Microsoft Excel. However, Christina has to use her hands and feet all day, exhausting herself physically to be able to provide for her and her family. The physical toll Christina's body will take will sadly never be known by corporate America. We should take more time to step aside from our hectic lifestyles and realize just how fortunate we are.

2. "Fair trade encourages artisans to work together rather than compete with one another." This sentence sums up why I believe America has a decreasing quality of life. Having worked in New York City this year, I saw firsthand what actually occurs. People hustle across busy intersections like electron dots. The chance that someone on the street will stop and say "Hello" is realistically impossible today. We are so consumed with ourselves and the profit we make. After a while, we start to lose sleep over the amount of money in our bank account. We work alone and compete against friends in our office just so we can get the promotion instead of them. This process makes me exhausted. I believe Fair Trade can improve the quality of life. Working together to achieve a common goal allows there to be more of an opportunity for human interaction versus the isolation that occurs in America. I think America is in need of a dose of this mentality so that we can all improve our quality of life and decrease the incessant stress that occurs in the business world.

Write comment now Author: Rdoyle5 Tue Sep 10, 2013 4:54 am

Week 1: Using Purchasing Power for Justice and Hope (9/10)

Actual Responses to Text
1) The flow chart on page 35 provided a lot of impact for me. As a member of the business school we take an operations class that discusses flow charting. The class focuses on getting a product through as quick as possible and eliminating costs where ever possible to be able to offer a cheap product to consumers and maximize profits. This is not what the Fair Trade diagram looks like. Instead of starting at the end and setting a price (as Walmart does), this sets a price for the designer/producer/ builder.
2) The second part of the reading that impacted me was Deuteronomy 15:7-11. This one is about giving to your fellow "humans" and not to ask for debts to be repaid. I find this interesting because this is a problem we struggle with, especially when interacting with FT in Africa, South America and India. The issue is that if we just give money to them then they will accept it, maybe waste it, and they will feel no obligation to pad it back since we are not (according to Deuteronomy) supposed to ask for debts to be repaid. So this is a challenging thought, do you give to someone and make it possible for them to be dependent on you or only to business with them.

Actual Response
1) In response to the first point above about the flow charts, there is a lot to say about the our society. We must first be willing to accept that there may be higher prices if we are going to buy social just products. As we see in the flow chart if the producer is getting 20% of the product price instead of 1-5% then the price will go up (because owners will want to maintain some profits). This means that we as the end consumers will have to accept that our purchasing power, as the article describes, will come at a premium. This is something that will take a lot of convincing of consumers to do, especially because natural price increases already bother people. This is going to be, and has already proven to be, a tough sell to many consumers. (If companies do this then it may look like we are posing a 'tax' on people in the US who are already struggling to make ends meet. All at the cost of helping people in another country. And although this may be the right thing to do since our standard of living is higher, but it will be a tough sell to law makers and politicians.)

2) I am going to respond to the second point that I wrote about above. This has to do with giving to the poor or doing business with the poor in developing nations. Many economists believe that the United States could do more for African and South American developing countries by doing business with them and having them create wealth rather than have the US give hand outs. This economic theory goes against the bible verse that tells us to give and not to seek for repayment of debts. I would agree with the economic theory due to how its visible and clear and we have seen it work in other economies. For me it is more sustainable than the handouts that the bible suggests, that being said we have to look after the poorest of the poor. There I see nothing wrong with giving food out to those who have nothing to eat or drink.

Write comment now Author: jtreseler1 Tue Sep 10, 2013 1:44 am
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