Blog #1 9/10/13

Since learning about Handcrafting Justice last class, I have been curious about the gender roles that go into Fair Trade and how big of an impact Fair Trade plays in changing the lives on women in particular. That being said, when I read the following lines from this week’s reading I became very interested. “Women are rarely highlighted in the Bible. Lydia, like Fair Trade business women, attracted attention and set an example.” “We would consider it a spiritual benefit because we can lift out heads and be looked upon with dignity. Because we can look up at our husbands and they have to look back at us with full respect.”

If I were to make a list for rules to live by in my future, remaining financially independent, especially from a future spouse, is very important to me. It isn't even something that I would have to remind myself of because it’s such a given, perhaps because it is so attainable. Admittedly, while reading “The New Conscious Consumer: Expanding Economic Justice Through Fair Trade” and learning much more than I ever knew about Fair Trade, enabling the Fair Trade workers to escape poverty and provide for their families was all I seemed to think the goal of Fair Trade was. Of course, that is no small goal. However, until I read the aforementioned section I did not think about the gender barriers that these women face as well, and how important and probably how rare it is that they, as women, be supporting themselves and their families financially in this way. It is important that women in fortunate enough places such as America, who are working hard to erase gender barriers, take advantage of every opportunity given to them. However, it is SO important that we do not forget that the struggle continues in many other areas of the world even as ours diminish. This concept applies to all struggles, and that is what Fair Trade is all about.

One of the struggles between political parties in America at the moment has to do with social programs and what the right (meaning both ethical and effective) thing to do about the very low standard of living among an abundance of the population is. Do we raise minimum wage? Do we tax the rich even more? Though this is not the space to go into that discussion, I did find a statement in the reading “The New Conscious Consumer: Expanding Economic Justice Through Fair Trade” to be very interesting, and perhaps present a system (Fair Trade) that shows that there is a solution to this problem if we all work hard and work together. “Fair Trade is not about give and take; it’s not about handouts. It is about mutuality and respect because we need each other.” “Fair trade encourages artisans to work together rather than compete with one another. Groups have to do their own quality control. When one helps another become more skilled, one strengthens the group.”

These statements are so incredibly inspiring to me. They make me think that it is possible that with the growth of Fair Trade will not only come the intended outcomes within developing countries that are involved but lessons learned amongst already developed countries who think they even know what poverty is. I have the following questions that perhaps will be answered as the school year progresses. I am certainly aware that I am not the first person to ask these questions and recognize that I am currently ignorant in this subject: In what ways can “Fair Trade” become a term that people in developed countries all know the meaning of and understand the added bonus fairly easily? In what ways will, God willing, the expansion of Fair Trade and hopefully one day even Fair Trade becoming the norm effect how developed nations conduct businesses and deal with social issues like those that exist in America right now. Finally, from a totally business perspective, I have been wondering how these products can be marketed in a way that attracts people who are simply looking for beautiful toys or well-made beach bags, with the added bonus of being Fair Trade products, instead of searching directly for Fair Trade as their first priority. I would imagine that the former would be much more popular and effective for the time being while Fair Trade as a concept is still an unknown for many people.

Write comment now Authorin: ninajanel Wed Sep 11, 2013 1:56 am

Using Our Purchasing Power for Justice and Hope

1. One of the first portions of the text that stood out to me was the statement, "Fair trade is not about charity. It is a holistic approach to trade and development that aims to alter the ways in which commerce is conducted, so that trade can empower the poorest of the poor." The Fair Trade Federation is not establish to give money to the producers that they don't deserve. The FTF is established to make sure that markets are run efficiently and more important fairly. The FTF makes sure that the wages of the workers are fair, their work place in safe, and that they are the ones profiting for their hard work. They also educate consumers and work to form a harmony between the two different ends of the spectrum. They also work to try and maintain environmental sustainability so that the land is protected in the process of production.
My response:
I thought this passage really put a lot in prospective for me. It is not that I thought that by purchasing a product from fair trade was an act of charity, but it helps clarify where my money would actually be going. the FTF works so that the money we spend on goods is allocated correctly. It is important and crucial for the livelihood of the working people to get the money they deserve. It is socially responsible to make purchases through companies that practice fair trade because we know that the money isn't "skimmed" through the process of production.

2. Another section of the text that stood out to me was the passage: "When we support the P.OOr we are not only supporting the poor, we are glorifying God;when we reject the poor, we are not only rejecting the poor, we are rejecting God. (Gal, 5:14). We learn here that God has a mission for us to help out those human beings who have less than us. It is our duty to support them and when we do that we are living out the word of God. It is when we reject the poor that we choose to reject God.
My Response:
I think that this passage was an interesting way to reflect on fair trade. It made me think about how purchasing from companies that abuse workers and hand out unfair wages we are supporting evil. As human beings we should have the social responsibility to support the right care of human beings. By taking a stand and educating individuals about the importance of fair trade we are living out the word of God.

Write comment now Authorin: Madeline McGinley Wed Sep 11, 2013 1:41 am

9/10 "Using our Purchasing Power for Justice and Hope"

Actual Text #1:
The first part of the reading that really stood out to me was the text on page 10, describing the phenomenon in Jamaica. It discussed how, although the Blue Mountain coffee was delicious, the forests and soils used to grow the beans for the coffee are now destroyed, due to the harsh working conditions on these grounds, over the years. As a result, the residents of Jamaica have grown significantly poorer and there lives are now governed by the cash crop, “coffee.” With the vast amount of price fluctuations in the stock market, these resident workers are now working in fields that they do not own and they are becoming poorer while someone else is profiting off their hardships and dedication to properly grow good coffee beans.

Response to Text #1
I was really fascinated with this story because I feel as though we are so completely unaware of the hard work that goes into producing products that we so-call “need.” I found it devastating that people are working under such harsh conditions, just to make ends meet, for our need for the luxury of “delicious coffee.” Not only do these workers get paid way less than they should for their devotion to satisfying our needs, but they are also residents of Jamaica and have to work under the authority of someone else, watching that authoritative figure make all the profits for their work. It is sad that we can take Jamaica’s beautiful land and forests and destroy them for our own luxuries, as if we do not already have enough.

Actual Text #2
The second part of the reading that really stood out to me was the part where the author describes how Fair Trade encourages artisans to work together rather than compete with one another. It states, “when one helps another becomes more skilled, one strengthens the group.” The author also stresses the importance of being transparent and honest to create a healthy and proactive working environment. It is also saying aside from good communication between artisans, they also are very generous to help each other out. If, for example, one woman is unable to complete her part of the job, because of an injury, they will all make sure she still gets paid. This “cooperation gives artisans the opportunity to establish their own rules and solve problems in ways that are life-giving.”

Response to Text #2
The reason I thought this part what of great importance to reflect on is because I believe the underlying cause of a good, successful working environment is teamwork. If you are not willing to be open to others and share a common working ground then you will not accomplish the same amount of progress, as you would if working together. I think there is something to value in the way these artisans view life. It is very heart-warming to know that these woman who come from nothing still hold the value of friendship and learning from each other to the highest standard. I think it would be very beneficial for people of this day and age to see what true cooperation and sharing accomplishes. Overall, I think these woman have a greater idea of what is important in life and I think many people these days forget about that when it comes to success and money.

Write comment now Authorin: sgostiguy Wed Sep 11, 2013 1:37 am

"Using our Purchasing Power for Justice and Hope" 9/10

Actual Text

1. "In conventional trade the producer generally receives only 1 to 5% of the retail price that the consumer pays, whereas in Fair Trade the producer usually gets 20-30%" (Hoffhine and Farrell, pg. 7).

2. The brief synopsis about Blue Mountain coffee being produced in Jamaica. The forest and soils in Jamaica are essentially ruined by deforestation and overproduction and the islanders that live nearby are being greatly effected. One of the points that Hoffhine and Farrell make is that the "the more you produce, the more profit you will make," which is typically true. However in this case the people of Jamaica that live nearby are doing the opposite. The harder they work and the more they produce, the worse their living condition is. They can hardly raise livestock on their land or plant gardens due to soil erosion.

Responses to text

1. I was interested to read this statistic because I did not realize that intermediaries take a large part of the profit each time a particular product passes through their hands. By cutting out the intermediaries, a justly produced product such as coffee or handmade jewelry can be delivered to the consumer at nearly the same cost as conventionally traded goods. It made me question why all goods are not fair trade? Logistically it makes perfect sense that the person who is taking the time to make the products should receive a higher percentage of the profit then that of an intermediary who did not actually have anything to do with the production. Also, the fact that the workers do not have any input on the price they receive and that at any moment they can lose their job is truly astonishing.

2. After reading this blurb on Blue Mountain coffee it made me think about how many times a day I drink coffee. When I thought about it I realized that not once have I ever drank coffee and questioned where it came from or who was involved in the process and are they suffering because of it. I am not going to be hypocritical and say I am never going to drink non-fair trade coffee ever again, but reading this story definitely made me think about it. What would happen if my life revolved around a cash crop and I could no longer use the land to survive? Sometimes we can be so ignorant to something as simple as coffee, but for others such as those in Jamaica, there lives depend on it.

Write comment now Authorin: Alexa Mancuso Wed Sep 11, 2013 1:10 am

“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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