Thursday, April 24, 2014
Text Size


Tomorrow morning after the alarm goes off and the shades are pulled, you have the opportunity to dress in solidarity with garment workers across the globe. But what could be such a monumental action before 9 am, you ask? Wearing your clothing inside out will visually remind people around the world that April 24th, 2014 is the one year anniversary of the tragic Rana Plaza collapse in Bangladesh. Here over 1,133 garment workers perished in what is known as the deadliest garment accident in history.

While the news coverage and the tragic images shook many of us, the Rana Plaza collapse is not an isolated event. Numerous well-known fashion brands are still employing cheap labor and families are still struggling to survive. While companies are outsourcing their labor to the cheapest location, the impact is felt on the temporary employees while unbeknownst to the shopper. Wages are 20-24 cents an hour, verbal and physical abuse is constant and 15-17 hour work shifts are common in garment factories. Social and environmental catastrophes still plague the fashion industry – tainting our favorite dresses, sweaters and pants. So how do we as global citizens raise awareness about the true cost of fashion?

Wearing your clothing inside out on April 24th is a way to reveal where the garment is made and engage with the fashion company. This action is the vision of Fashion Revolution. Fashion Revolution is a global movement, bringing together everyone in the fashion value chain for a positives campaign. Fashion Revolution is cosponsoring events across the globe. Locally in Chicago students at Kelly High School, Portage Park Middle School and more are participating in #InsideOut, collecting photos of their clothing tags. In the evening at DePaul University a fashion show will showcase fair trade fashions starting at 8pm – find out more here.  Come and join us!

So tomorrow when you are getting dressed, flip that top and pants inside out, snap a photo of your tag using #ChiInsideOut and #InsideOut and post it to social media. Send this photo to the whichever clothing brand you are wearing and ask them WHO MADE YOUR CLOTHES?

- Elise Hawley

Chicago Fair Trade Outreach Communications

Tags , , , , , ,

 Guest Post by Jamie Hayes, CFT member and local designer.

Aleya Akter, the General Secretary of the Bangaldesh Garment and Industrial Workers Federation and Aklima Khanam, an 18-year-old survivor of the Rana Plaza collapse, came to Chicago last week as part of their tour the US to share the struggles of apparel workers in Bangaldesh. Between visits to United Students Against Sweatshop chapter events at UIC and University of Chicago, they took time out of their busy schedules to meet at City Hall with Chicago Fair Trade and with Adolfo Hernandez of the Office of Community Engagement.  

Aleya told the harrowing story of her journey from garment worker to labor organizer. She started working in the garment industry at the age of 12 and after years of forced overtime, abysmal pay, and unsafe working conditions, she began to advocate for herself and other workers. As a result of her organizing efforts, she has been beaten and harassed by the management at the factory where she works and by the police in Bangladesh. Thanks to her organizing work, the bravery of her colleagues, and international pressure in the wake of the Rana Plaza Factory collapse, this past year she and her colleagues finally won legal recognition of their vote to unionized. 

Aklima shared her experience of working in Rana Plaza on the days leading up to the building's collapse. Workers were forced to continue working even though it was clear that the building was structurally unsound. When the building collapsed, Aklima was trapped for 12 hours under machinery before being rescued. Over 1,100 workers were killed that day, and many more injured. Almost one year later, she is still awaiting compensation for her injuries. 

Aleya and Aklima shared their stories at City Hall because a sweatfree ordinance passed by the City Council would increase pressure on major brands to improve worker conditions. The ordinance would require that all garments purchased by the City of Chicago be produced without the use of sweatshops, meaning that: no children would be employed in the making of our city's uniforms; that workers would be paid a living wage; and that workers would have the right to unionize. Vendors who do not come into compliance with these very basic labor standards would not receive our tax dollars. 

Aleya and Aklima asked City Hall to please support the ordinance which could help create a sea change in the garment industry, wherein sweatshops are still the norm, not the exception. They also asked the City of Chicago to sign a petition urging major brands manufacturing in Bangladesh to sign on to a fire and safety accord that would help to ensure that preventable tragedies such as the Rana Plaza collapse and the Tazreen fire never occur again. You can support them as well by signing here and also by joining CFT in our campaign to make Chicago a sweatfree city! We hope you will download the support letter to your alderman and reach out to share what an important statement we can make as a sweatfree community.  We anticipate the ordinance will be introduced in May.

Contact for more information 

Tags , ,

People are voicing concerns about the Trans Pacific Parternship (TPP)

Hear more about the TPP

Contact your congress representative


       Reprinted with permission from

We’ve noticed that some people’s eyes glaze over when we start talking about free trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) or the Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA), also called the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

We’ve compiled this list to clarify who will be impacted. If none of the below apply to you, feel free to ignore these so-called free trade agreements.

You do not need to worry about how free trade agreements will affect you unless:

  • You have a job. (A recent study showed the TPP would mean a pay cut for 90% of US workers.)


  • You prefer to eat food that you know is safe and free of chemical residues. (TPP would require countries to accept food that meets only the lowest safety standards of the collective participants.)
  • You drink water and don’t want it contaminated through increased fracking. (TPP would limit the authority of local governments to restrict permits to extraction and export of liquid nature gas to partner countries, which could lead to an increase in the practice of fracking.)
  • You could benefit from a medical test or surgical procedure. (TPP would require the patenting of medical procedures, making many of them too costly to be widely available.)


  • You buy products labeled fair trade, animal-friendly, or GMO-free. (Labels such as these may be challenged as trade barriers under TPP.)
  • You have a job in the manufacturing sector. (A 2011 report estimated a net loss of nearly 700,000 jobs, more than half in the manufacturing sector, due to NAFTA; TPP is expected to create a loss of a million jobs as companies shift work to low wage countries.  This means not only a loss of decent jobs in the US, but the creation of more undesirable jobs in countries where not only are wages low but workers rights are not protected.)



  • You are a family-scale farmer (or prefer to buy food from family-scale farmers). (After the passage of NAFTA, more than 2 million corn farmers in Mexico were forced off their land, imports of fruits and vegetables to the US increased making it more difficult for US farmers to compete in markets, and reports showed that incomes dropped for farmers in most commodities in Canada, the US, and Mexico. TPP is likely to have similar affects and family-scale farmers may lose income or their farms.)


  • You would like your local government or school to adopt a “buy local” policy to give preference in buying to local farmers and producers. (TPP would outlaw preferential buying clauses.)
  • You are a government official attempting to pass a domestic health, environmental, or economic policy to benefit citizens in your country and your country is sued by a foreign corporation to recoup loss of expected profits. (Minnesota-based Cargill sued the Mexican government under a provision of NAFTA—the North America Free Trade Agreement when Mexico tried to institute policies to restrict imports of corn syrup in order to support its own sugar farmers.)

If after reading this, you do think you might be affected by free trade agreements like TPP, please take action and let your Representative know that you are concerned. Act Now!

Tell Your Representative You Want Fair Trade Not Free Trade…

Tags , , ,

As produce manager at Chicago’s Dill Pickle Food Cooperative, I have the great responsibility of purchasing food that not only nourishes the consumer but that is supporting the farmer behind that product. Maybe I deeply care about the well being of farmers worldwide because I, myself, am a farmer. I know the backbreaking labor it takes to produce clean, just food; I know what it is like to farm day-in and day-out in tropical conditions; I know most farmers do not make incomes that appropriately supports their work. Farmers deserve fair wages, clean & safe living conditions, and they most certainly deserve clean & just food themselves.

So, as a die-hard advocate of fair trade everything, I couldn’t be more pleased to announce Dill Pickle is Chicago’s first supplier of fair trade avocados! Fair trade guacamole anyone?!

What exactly does fair trade avocados even mean, you may be asking? How could the purchase of just one small avocado, all the way up in Chicago, possibly have an impact on the farmer that grew it. Considering the fact that the U.S. consumed 1.6 billion avocados in 2012, there’s no hiding our love for avocados in this country. To meet the demands of such a profound love affair, there are plenty of things happening ‘behind the scenes’ that we as consumers need to be aware of because our impact is huge! The foods you choose to purchase are directly impacting thousands of lives, near & far. And in this case, mostly far.

To fully understand the difference between a fair trade and regular organic or conventional avocado, let’s first take a look at the typical avocado farm. Most obviously, avocados grow in warm climates. Many avocado farms (or groves) operate on such large scales that the farmers themselves seemingly lose their identity, are subject to working 12+ hour days in the heat, are severely underpaid, and do not receive any form of medical support. Add to these already unfavorable conditions, countries we import from such as Mexico, also face the violence and danger of drug cartels.

If you have painted yourself a picture of miserable conditions, you’ve got the right idea.  So let’s paint another picture; that of a fairly traded avocado farm.

The fair trade avocados that are sold at the Dill Pickle are sourced from the grower cooperative Pragor, located in Michoacan, Mexico. Importers do not have any formal say on how the farmers choose to use the fair trade premiums; it is a decision that lies entirely in the hands of Pragor farmers, as it should be. Similar to other farmer cooperatives, these premiums are put towards retirement, social security programs and farm improvements.  Although it may seem to us a trivial difference of income, it is this difference that provides these farmers a second chance in earning a living wage, investing towards a more stable future, and ensuring safer work environments. And not only are these fair trade premiums affecting the individual farmers. Many, if not all of them, are providing for their families. Being able to support a child’s education or assist in medical needs that may not otherwise be possible, now that is certainly worth a few extra pennies.

So next time you are craving an avocado, remember the true cost of what it took to get that avocado to your plate. Come by the Dill Pickle Food Co-op and grab yourself a fairly traded avocado; the taste of fairness is way more satisfying than that of injustice. 

If the unique hand-made items and devotion to fair trade that Ten Thousand Villages offers isn’t enough incentive to check them out, then listen to this. The new store on Armitage Ave hosted a special event that brought the CEO, Doug Dirks, to speak with the DePaul Fair Trade Committee. I was genuinely amazed to hear his own journey and that of Ten Thousand Villages. The team of people behind the company has touched the lives of many people and communities around the world; they take pride in going into a community and working with them to take what they are already making and turning it into something profitable. I believe that Dirks is a prime example of how businessmen can work towards both social and environmental sustainability. While many are not even aware of the impact their business has on communities, Dirks has specialized in expanding business while catering to the individual cultural values of each country.  


His storytelling truly revealed the companies devotion to the fair trade mission. The fact that he could pick up any item and not only identify where it was made but also the name of the artisan is proof of their value in establishing long-term relationships. Dirks enthralled us with stories of products beginning as scrap metal on the street to a toy that can be sold here in the U.S. There is a lot of opportunity for Ten Thousand Villages and I am interested to see how they grow and expand the market for fair trade.


By: Helena Duecker 

Guest post by Jackie Corlett, the founder of Motif Ltd. 

Raising the Bar on our Chocolate Choices!

Having arrived home to the US from Bangladesh sooner than planned, for family reasons, I find myself in the midst of that annual candy frenzy called Halloween! And of course am challenged afresh by the scary amounts of scary chocolate on sale everywhere.

This month LexisNexis and Stop the Traffik have released a very well documented report, Dark Chocolate:Understanding human trafficking risks in the chocolate supply chain; we have a choice. It focuses on 2 main aspects of the cocoa industry:

  • the harrowing, awful numbers of children trafficked and working in the cocoa farms of West Africa
  • the levels of action, and inaction, being taken by the major cocoa companies who create our chocolate choices.

I'd really recommend grabbing a cup of your favourite fair trade brew and taking the time to read Dark Chocolate - plenty of useful info-graphics, quotes and summaries. By the end of it you'll understand just why it is we MUST raise the bar on our chocolate choices.

"But Jackie, Fair Trade chocolate is so expensive!"

You know what ... no it's not!
- not from the point of view of children being schooled instead of enslaved to produce it
- not when compared with equally good quality yet non-fairtrade chocolate bars
- not even in mainstream chocolate bars like Cadbury's Dairy Milk - Fairtrade certified in the UK since 2009.

Search 'fair trade chocolate + your country' to find more suppliers ... here are just a few:

There's lots of other crazy sweet kinds of candy you can give away this Halloween so why not join the pledge that any chocolate you give away, or consume, this season will be Fair Trade ONLY!

It's this kind of pressure that's causing the big cocoa consumers to take notice. Take a look at pages 16 & 17 in the Dark Chocolate Report and let's Raise the Bar on our Chocolate Choices.

Looking forward hearing your thoughts on this issue. Meanwhile here's to 'scare-free' chocolate this Halloween! ... Enjoy ;)





The original version of this blog post can be viewed at Motif Ltd.'s blog:

On Labor Sunday our friend, Jan Rodriguez from the North Suburban Fair Trade Network, gave a speech to her church talking about fair trade!


Listen Here:


Visit the North Suburban Fair Trade Network facebook page here:

Tags ,

Food Miles and Fair Trade

Ways to Connect Consumers to Their Food

** This blog post is a summary and discussion based on the report created by Fair Trade International (FLO). The report can be found here:

When discussing the sustainability of fair trade, some might counter this conversation with the fact that fair trade items are coming from many miles away. The distances these products have to travel are causing environmental degradation with the emissions used for transportation, and therefore should be avoided. This notion of the distance food has to travel from the producer to the consumer is termed food miles. This term is an excellent way to encourage consciousness in food consumption, especially in a time of climate uncertainty.  One draw back is that the food mile term narrows the definition of sustainable eating to the carbon footprint of distribution and is limiting in so far as it only encourages eating locally.  Looking at just food miles for local food does not give consumers the full picture – what about the farm workers, the farming methods used and waste generation?  Those factors, and more, play into how sustainable our food is.

Using a Life Cycle Analysis illuminates the entire greenhouse gas emissions of a good throughout its growth and transportation – it’s life.  With a broader investigation into the sustainability of our food, one finds that transportation only accounts for 4% of the overall carbon footprint of food in the U.S. A European company, Cafédirect, did a lifecycle analysis on their tea and coffee products. They found that 72% of the emissions came from the processing and consumption stage, and transportation was significantly lower.  Furthermore, it is one thing to critique the transportation of a company, but what about our own? When critically thinking of sustainable eating, include questions such as how are you picking up your groceries, a bike, CTA? Plus, the way you dispose of the scraps can reduce emissions, too. We should be critical on the consumption stage, too. 

Despite many romantic pastoral images we have of the farmer out in the field, U.S. farming alarmingly accounts for 83% of emissions!  With carbon intensive agriculture the fertilizers and pesticides outweigh emissions associated with transportation. Developing countries do not have as carbon intense farming methods, to the extent of the U.S. The report gives an example to show that closer does not always mean lower carbon footprints, “refined sugar delivered to Europe from Zambia and Mauritius has an average carbon footprint of 0.4 kg CO2e/kg. This is in comparison to 0.6kg CO2e/kg for sugar produced in the UK and 1.46kg CO2e/kg for sugar produced in Germany.” The difference in sugar produced locally (For the UK) versus abroad shows that food sustainability is a much more complex picture.

A sustainable food choice ought to include both the impacts on society and the environment. The small farmers that fair trade supports is empowering them and reducing dependency on aid.  Fair trade is the ethical option that supports both the people and the environment.  The practices fair trade farmers have to uphold include no use of pesticides,  training in waste disposal, water protection, soil conservation  and avoiding protected areas. Sustainable farming method for small fair trade farmers protects their future and their livelihood, whilst contributing the least to climate change.

However, there are sustainable food options locally, just do not discriminate on how close the farm is to your house. Open up your critique with multiple questions.   Chicago Fair Trade is emphasizing the campaign “ask the right questions.” So create a dialogue with what is on your plate – what is going to happen to the scraps? were pesticides used? were the farmers paid fairly? I am an avid farmers market girl that supports both small farmer here and abroad. At farmers markets conversations about the farmers and methods used are welcomed, likewise with fair trade. And let’s face it, as much as I would love to have a cocoa tree in my back yard next to a banana tree that is not going to happen in the varying climate of Chicago.  Many of the U.S.’ top prized commodities (chocolate, coffee, tea, bananas) are not able to grow here – mileage is going to be inevitable. So instead of limiting our definition of sustainable to miles from farm to fork, we should be supporting the small sustainable farms that define sustainability throughout their lifecycle of food production.  

Other Great Reads:


By Elise Hawley

Tags ,



Good news for urban Ten Thousand Villages shoppers, a new store has opened within the city! The store is located on 840 West Armitage in the Lincoln Park neighborhood. The doors were opened to this fair trade favorite on Saturday, June 15th. A couple of us at CFT stopped by for a visit and were thrilled to hear of the success the store has had thus far. The manager Jill informed us that the neighborhood has happily welcomed the store, with neighboring businesses stopping by. As the only fair trade store in the neighborhood, that we know of, customers are walking in new to the fair trade story, but a large portion are already familiar!  It is great to have a fair trade store move into a new neighborhood, which means more people to reach out to and educate. One of my favorite parts about shopping at fair trade stores is that each item is more than just the material, but it also comes with a great story. While in the Ten Thousand Villages it is obvious that customers are more enticed by the item they are holding when one of the employees tells the story behind each piece.

The only thing different about this Ten Thousand Villages is that it is operated under the headquarters in Akron. But besides that, this one has all the same magnificent pieces. A couple of my favorites include the Highlands Goblet from Bolivia and the new bamboo barrettes from Nepal.  The store layout is long and narrow and let me warn you, as you walk further back your wish-list extends! I highly recommend a visit to this new store. They are even welcoming volunteers and will start having events, too. And soon, a partnered event with CFT, so keep your eyes and ears open for the date!

Mission Statement: Ten Thousand Villages' mission is to create opportunities for artisans in developing countries to earn income by bringing their products and stores to our markets through long-term fair trading relationships. 

Visit their about page here:

Visit their facebook page here:


840 West Armitage, Chicago, IL 60614

Open M-F 10am - 7pm, Sat 10am - 6pm and Sun 11am - 5pm


Tags , ,

637 S. Dearborn 3rd fl. Chicago, IL 60605 | 312-212-1760 |