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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

Published 04-14-20

Submitted by Fair Trade USA

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, the Fair Trade USA has increased the flexibility of the 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 is also underway to more than 200 fair trade Certificate Holders to better understand the overarching impact of Covid-19 on workers.

Examples of How Community Development Funds are Being Used to Support Covid-19 Relief:

  • A farm in U.S. 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 a paid full salary to all 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, veggies, fish, 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, please visit: https://donate.fairtradecertified.org/give/154624/#!/donation/checkout

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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.

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Fair Trade USA

Fair Trade USA

Fair Trade USA (previously TransFair USA), a nonprofit organization, is the leading third-party certifier of Fair Trade products in the United States. Fair Trade USA audits and certifies transactions between U.S. companies and their international suppliers to guarantee that the farmers and workers producing Fair Trade Certified goods were paid fair prices and wages, work in safe conditions, protect the environment, and receive community development funds to empower and uplift their communities. Fair Trade USA educates consumers, brings new manufacturers and retailers into the Fair Trade system, and provides farming communities with tools, training and resources to thrive as international businesspeople. Visit http://www.fairtradeusa.org for more information.

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