Myth: Fair trade takes away jobs in the U.S.
Fact: Fair trade exists to help the world’s poorest communities and represents crafts and foods not found in the U.S.
Photo credit (Fair Trade America – cotton farmer)
It is a common misunderstanding that fair trade siphons jobs away from the U.S. to all parts of the world. In reality, fair trade is meant to be a system that aids the poorest of the poor in the world, who happen to live in developing countries for the most part. Let’s face it, a lot of what we consume on a daily basis, whether it’s our coffee or the clothes we wear, is produced in developing countries under unfair conditions. Fair trade is meant to even the scales and offer those who make and grow our goods a fair chance at living a just, healthy and prosperous life.
One thing many people may not consider when they argue that fair trade takes away jobs from hard-working Americans is the fact that most fair trade products, in fact, particualrly fair trade foods, are products we cannot grow in the U.S. Consumables like coffee (photo below), chocolate, tea, olive oil, quinoa, bananas, etc. grow in much warmer climates than are found in the U.S. Thus, we will always rely on importing these goods from other countries. This is not a bad thing. Having our morning Cup O’ Joe is a wonderful thing, so why not create respectful relationships with the coffee farmers so that we can sustain the production, quality and environment for many years to come?
Map of Equal Exchange coffee harvest:
Similarly, many other fair trade products represent handcrafts that are passed down from generation to generation; traditional crafts that celebrate cultures from around the world. There are generations of weavers, potters, metal-smiths and printers doing crafts that simply have no U.S. counterpart – they are unique to their village or country. Fair trade allows North American consumers to celebrate the long-lasting techniques and artistry of the artisans.
While some people may argue that fair trade distracts us from addressing the poverty that exists within our own country (and surely it does exist, if not on the same scale as the developing world), people who fully understand fair trade know that it allows us to eat and buy the things we love without taking advantage of the people who produce them.
In addition, as more and more fair trade stores open across the U.S., they provide jobs in their communities. Fair Trade Winds+Momentum began in 2007 with one tiny store and 1 employee – we now regularly employ around 30 people. We are proud to be an independent small business contributing to our local economies while the products we carry represent local communities around the world.