Fair Trade USA Takes Swift Action to Support Workers During COVID-19

Organization empowers communities to address emergency needs with fair trade funds; leverages technology to quickly deliver health and safety information amid crisis.

OAKLAND, Calif., (April 10, 2020) – Fair Trade USA®, the leading certifier of fair trade products in North America, released a new policy on emergency fund use for COVID-19. It outlines direct action to support farmers, workers, and fishers with health, safety, and financial measures as they cope with the global pandemic.  

Most critically, Fair Trade USA has increased the flexibility of use of Fair Trade Community Development Funds to enable workers to use them more immediately to address their critical needs. These funds, which are earned on top of workers’ wages, are made possible through the sales of Fair Trade Certified goods. Workers organize democratically and vote to use the money on projects of their choosing to improve their communities’ infrastructure, productivity, health, and/or livelihoods.  

“Freeing up these funds right now is vital,” said Diego Rodríguez, Director, Producer Services, Agriculture and Seafood at Fair Trade USA. “Some are in dire need of personal protective equipment or preventative training and education. Others need cash payouts or low-interest loans to cover missed work and canceled orders. And they can’t afford to wait anymore.”  

To support, Fair Trade USA conducted interviews with more than 80 producer groups at the start of the pandemic to better understand their needs. A key finding in this research was the spread of misinformation about the virus, especially in indigenous communities. To mobilize in the near-term, Fair Trade USA’s Producer Services team is leveraging new technology to quickly deliver audiovisual physical distancing, sanitation and hygiene, and mental health training and information to workers, prioritizing this content in indigenous languages.  

The organization also compiled and shared usable resources from its findings across producer groups, including COVID-19 prevention content, sanitary protocols, social distancing best practices, and other preventative measures. An additional survey was just completed to more than 200 fair trade Certificate Holders to better understand the overarching impact of COVID-19 on workers. 96 responded across six fair trade categories in 20 countries.

Key Findings:

  • Two-thirds of surveyed Certificate Holders (CHs) report a drop in demand.
  • Two-thirds (66%) of all Certificate Holders that responded said they needed more information about COVID-19, such as best practices for social distancing and prevention measures to stop the spread of the virus.
  • Nearly all Certificate Holders surveyed (95%) are implementing extra safety measures to address COVID-19.
  • Most producers (96%) live in places where national/federal/state/local governments are mandating safety measures.
  • Top challenges cited across categories were: reduction in work and income; transportation issues; not enough workers due to quarantine.
    • In apparel, supply chains are facing shutdowns or reduced operations due to shelter in place orders and workers are unable to leave the house to work.
    • In agriculture, supply chains are currently active, but workers lack PPE, sanitary supplies, and necessary transportation.
    • In seafood, fishermen and producers lack work. Reduced demand is leading to reduced production and earning potential.

Examples of Community Development Funds being used to support COVID-19 relief:  

  • A farm in the US is offering incentive pay to workers who follow social distancing protocols. They are paying for more shuttle buses to transport workers to and from their jobs so there is less crowding.  

  • A garment factory in India has paid full salary to all its workers one week in advance of normal time. Its ‘Fair Price Shop’ is helping the community access daily needs while supplies are rationed or disrupted, and its clinic in the factory continues to serve employees and take care of minor ailments, easing the burden on large hospitals.  

  • Garment factories in China are providing free masks and hand sanitizer and implementing strict guidelines around distancing, especially during lunch. Some are doing temperature checks every day and still paying workers who are not able to come into work. 

  • Coconut farms in the Philippines are providing staple foods like rice, vegetables, fish, and chicken to farms that are most remote, and therefore hardest hit by the country-wide lockdown. 

At the outset of the pandemic, Fair Trade USA also made accommodations to its Certification Policy to ease the burden on farmers, workers, and fishers during this trying time. This policy will be updated as the pandemic evolves. To stay up to date on all of Fair Trade USA’s COVID-19 actions, please visit https://www.fairtradecertified.org/news/covid-19-response 

To make a contribution to Fair Trade USA's COVID Response Program at this critical time, click here.

 

About Fair Trade USA   

Fair Trade USA® is a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and the leading certifier of fair trade products in North America. Its trusted Fair Trade Certified™ seal on a product signifies that it was made according to rigorous fair trade standards that promote sustainable livelihoods and safe working conditions, protection of the environment, and strong, transparent supply chains. Rather than creating dependency on aid, Fair Trade USA’s model empowers farmers, workers, and fishermen to fight poverty and earn additional money to improve their communities. Winner of Fast Company’s Social Enterprise of the Year Award and recognized as a leading social venture by the Clinton Global Initiative, the Skoll Foundation, and Ashoka, Fair Trade USA also helps brands and retailers tell their stories of impact and educates consumers about the power of their purchase. 

Contact  

Kasi Martin, Senior Public Relations Manager, Fair Trade USA 

Kmartin@fairtradeusa.org