Archive for August, 2010

Update on BCWS: Kalpona Atker arrested

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post about the labor rights struggles happening in Bangladesh.  I told you about the great work that the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity (BCWS) has done, but that they were struggling with the government to maintain their organizational rights. I am very sad to report that on August 13, 2010, a main figure head of the BCWS, Kalpona Atker was arrested for “inciting worker unrest.”  She was doing her part by advocating for garment workers’ rights, but has paid the price for her dedication to the cause and was taken to jail by 20 officers. Read more and take action HERE.

Discussion:

Wal-Mart is Bangladesh’s biggest customer. Knowing that, and the power behind the mega-brand, do you think Wal-Mart has an obligation to help the workers? Why might they not to choose to step in? Do these in-actions by corporations make you think twice about purchasing from them?

This is a follow to my recent post: $24 per month: The salary of 3 million garment workers in Bangladesh

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August 27, 2010 at 6:58 am Leave a comment

Reaping the benefits of certification labels

You can read The Omnivore’s Dilemma to get the full story about how industrial agriculture came to be in the US, but it’s actually a recent development. For years, people have farmed exactly the same way: at a low yield to feed the family and a few townspeople, with the help of animals to pull plows and provide fertilizer, always growing and rotating a variety of crops. With the invention of modern farm equipment and techniques, the application of patent protection to high yield seeds, government subsidies, and the wide-spread use of pesticides, farming in the last 50 years has become more of a cut-throat political game then anything.

Organic farmingOrganic farming has become quite fashionable, and many producers have jumped on the band wagon in order to capitalize on the ever-growing and affluent LOHAS segment.  This is a marketing term that refers to a particular group that focuses on sustainability, makes thoughtful decisions about what products they buy, and that relies on food certification labels to at the point of sale. But some independent farmers have always used organic techniques, not just in the past few years when the industry has boomed, but have been unable to label and sell their products as such because of government restrictions. The kicker is that the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) manages the organic labeling of foods in the US, and like any certification, it involves a lot of time and money to obtain and maintain the status.

But the economic downturn has affected everyone, including small, independent farmers who already operate on a low margin. Many who have been “hold outs” for the organic label are reconsidering their ban, and are now coughing up the yearly fees and royalties necessary to sell their “officially organic” products to grocery chains like Whole Foods. Even though organic techniques have been at the core of these producers’ values since the beginning, the competition, including large conglomerates, have taken the segment by storm and reaped the increased sales due to their USDA organic-labeled foods. At this point, giving into more government involvement in the food system is the only way that they can compete.

So what does this sudden change of heart tell us? Despite what your opinions are about the industrial food system, one thing is clear: certification labels matter. All consumers, not just the ones in the LOHAS segment, are starting to ask more questions about their products, including where it was produced, by who, and under what conditions. However scary they may be, scandals in the marketplace are driving the demand of increased supply chain transparency. No one wants to get salmonella from eggs they purchased at the corner store, or serve contaminated food to their dogs, and certification labels, although confusing at times, do help the consumer to make reliable decisions.

Changes in the food system are just the beginning, and conscious consumerism is beginning to pop up in other industries including apparel and footwear.  Transfair USA, the only third-party certifier of Fair Trade products in the US, will soon be fully launching its Apparel and Linens pilot.  What this means for you is that for the first time in history, you will be able to choose an ethical tee shirt over one that was made in a sweat shop.

Marigold Fair Trade Clothing is part of this program (more news to come later…), and while you have come to trust and love our company through our stories and transparency, you will soon have an official certified label to verify what you have always known: that buying a product from Marigold connects you to the producers and offers you a chance to be part of an alternate trade system that respects human dignity and sustainability.

Discussion:

What are your thoughts on certification labels? Do they affect your purchase decisions, and if so in what categories? If one clothing item was labeled organic and fair trade, and the one next to it did not have the certifications, how would your thought process change? Do you think a label can help to increase sales?

Source: Seeing ‘Gain’ in the Label Organic, The New York Times, August 7, 2010

August 23, 2010 at 4:25 am Leave a comment

Marigold featured at Lollapalooza in Chicago!

This year Marigold’s Summer Collection of dresses, skirts, tops and accessories were featured at the Revive Booth at Lollapalooza.  Revive is one of our amazing retail partners and has stores in Cleveland Heights and Lyndhurst, Ohio. Thanks to the Revive Staff for featuring our line and for helping spread the word about our work! Here are some photos from the event:

Olivia Dress

Marigold Bags

August 18, 2010 at 5:45 pm Leave a comment

And the winner is…

And the winner of our most recent blog giveaway is…. Angela Bultemeier! Congratulations and we will be in touch with you via email about how to claim your prize.

Thank you to everyone who entered and please be sure to keep an eye on our Twitter and Facebook accounts for announcements of additional fantastic contests!  Until next time…

August 10, 2010 at 5:42 am Leave a comment

Fair Trade Futures Conference

Each year, Marigold Fair Trade attends the Fair Trade Federation’s Annual Conference. This year the conference will be held in Boston from September 10-12. Open to members and non-members alike-this is a great way to see the scope of the fair trade movement and connect with other folks involved. Stop by our booth on Saturday during the Fair Trade Marketplace to get a sneak peak at some of Marigold’s Fall/ Winter Collection! Hope to see you there!

More on the conference:

Fair Trade Futures Conference:
Transforming Our Global Community
September 10-12, 2010

From September 10-12, 2010, the Fair Trade Futures Conference will bring together entrepreneurs, students, advocates, faith community members, concerned citizens, interested individuals, and others in Boston, MA for the largest Fair Trade event in North American history!

The event will include seminars, workshops, site visits, discussions, social activities, and an exposition of 50+ Fair Trade vendors to educate and inspire about the holistic approach to business and poverty alleviation that Fair Trade provides.

For more information and to register, please visit the Conference Website: fairtradeconference.ning.com.

August 7, 2010 at 7:28 pm Leave a comment

$24 per month: The salary of 3 million garment workers in Bangladesh

Barely surviving on pennies per day

The country of Bangladesh is a major hub in the global garment industry with over 3 million workers and 4,500 factories, producing over $16 billion in exports for big brands like Zara, Carrefour, JC Penney and Wal-Mart.  But Bangladesh  also has the lowest minimum wage in the entire world: $24 per month. This law was established in 2006, at the same time a local NGO determined that it would take workers in the capital city of Dhaka $20 per month to meet the minimum calorie intake to survive.  Food prices since then have tripled, which means that workers in the garment factories can’t even afford to feed themselves, let alone provide for their children.  Life for these workers is a hellish daily struggle just to survive.

The role of the BCWS

But there has been some hope in the form of The Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity (BCWS), an NGO started in 2001 to peacefully address labor rights issues.  The organization is well known in the community for its credible research, bringing awareness to the big issues, leadership training and conflict resolution.  While BCWS has many accomplishments, it has always had to deal with the government looking over its shoulders, literally tapping phone lines, intercepting emails and following workers.

As of June 3, 2010, the Bangladesh government officially revoked BCWS’s legal right to operate, and while no official reason has been given, it is speculated that it is due to BCWS’s support of a particular factory’s effort to unionize.  Things got really out of hand on June 16, 2010, when BCWS staff member Aminul Islam was captured, blindfolded and beaten.  His life, and those of his family, were threatened and he was coerced to give false testimony against BCSW, saying that it had spurred the factory workers to uprise and stop working.  Mr. Islam escaped and survived, but he and the other workers live in constant fear:

“Now I’m living in extreme anxiety,” he says. “I don’t even know what I should do now.  I can’t walk. I can’t even move because of the pain that I got from the beating. I can’t sleep. Nightmares of torture won’t let me sleep.”

Protests in the streets of Dhaka

In a desperate attempt to insure their survival, the garment workers are now putting their foot down and are demanding a pay increase to $72 per month (equal to $2 per day and $.35 per hour), but the government is stating that these actions and sentiments are not genuine, and workers are instead being coerced by BCWS (The factory in question has also filed criminal charges against the organization, reporting theft, vandalization and violence).

All of this has spurred weeks of violent protest in the streets of Dhaka, with workers burning furniture, looting, blocking traffic, and police have brutally reacted with batons and tear gas.  As of Thursday July 29, 2010, the government agreed to increase the minimum wage to $43 per month which will take effect on November 1, 2010, but the workers are not satisfied and violence continues to escalate.  Click HERE to see a video of the street protests.

What can you do?

The garment workers of Bangladesh need BCWS, and BCSW needs our help.  Click HERE to send a letter to the Prime Minister of Bangladesh demanding that their NGO status be reinstated.  In addition please connect with organizations like Amnesty International and read about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights developed by the UN in 1948.

In addition, your continued support of fair trade companies like Marigold help you to stand up to labor rights abuses by voting with your dollars and demanding fair treatment and wages for workers.  By becoming an informed and engaged citizen of the world, and not turning a blind eye to the critical issue of human rights violations, you are helping to take the first step towards peace, prosperity and equality.

SOURCES:

http://www.sweatfree.org/bcwsalert-7-2010

http://www.sweatfree.org/news_NYT-7-16-2010

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/38481520/ns/world_news-south_and_central_asia/

http://www1.voanews.com/english/news/asia/Bangladesh-Garment-Workers-Protest-Recent-Wage-Hike-99615314.html

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-10813750

http://syrusbdpicture.blogspot.com/2009/08/garments-worker-in-bangladesh.html

August 6, 2010 at 9:49 am 1 comment

GIVEAWAY: Enter to WIN a gorgeous fair trade, organic, vegetable-dyed napkin set!

Marigold Fair Trade is excited to announce a giveaway in celebration of this week’s unveiling of our new blog!

THE PRIZE:

One lucky winner will receive a beautiful handmade napkin set for 6 people!  Liven up a dinner party or enjoy a daily infusion of rich saturated vegetable-based color and traditionally hand blocked prints with an exclusive FREE gift from the Marigold House Wares collection.

RULES:

  • We will choose our favorite comment on the blog article and that person will be declared the winner
  • The winner will receive a direct email about how to collect the prize
  • Entries must be received by 5:00pm PST on Sunday August 8, 2010
  • Odds of winning depend on the number of entries received

TO ENTER THE GIVEAWAY:

  1. Visit our online catalog and pick your favorite Marigold Fair Trade product http://su.pr/2IPgOQ
  2. Post a comment on this article about your favorite Marigold Fair Trade product and WHY (don’t forget to provide a correct email address so we can get in touch with you if you are the winner)
  3. And for a BONUS chance to win:
    1. Join our Facebook page http://su.pr/2q14yw
    2. Follow us on Twitter http://twitter.com/MarigoldFT

ABOUT MARIGOLD FAIR TRADE:

Marigold works with a co-op of over 300 women from the slums of Mumbai, India and an association of 500o organic cotton farmers to make fashionable fair trade clothes and household items. Our beautiful line of products are vegetable-dyed and hand block printed or organic. Your purchase helps a disadvantaged woman make herself more economically self-sufficient and supports organic farming.

Hand block printing is an age-old artisan tradition that dates back to the 12th century in India, but it is an art form that is dying due to mass produced manufacturing. We believe in honoring and celebrating the tradition of block printing to bring you clothing that is a work of art created by hand.

Marigold is a proud member of the Fair Trade Federation and Green America. We are also proud members of the South Sound Clean Clothes campaign- a coalition of concerned citizens raising awareness about the sweatshop industry, and challenging individuals as well as public and private institutions to create positive change by altering their purchasing practices and Washington Fair Trade Coalition.

WHY SUPPORT FAIR TRADE:

As a member of the Fair Trade Federation we follow 8 guiding principles:

  1. Paying a fair wage in the local context
  2. Building long-term trade relationships
  3. Engaging in environmentally sustainable practices
  4. Technical training and assistance
  5. Offering employees opportunities for advancement
  6. Providing equal opportunities for all people, particularly the most disadvantaged
  7. Being open to public accountability
  8. Safe working conditions

We are proud members of the Fair Trade Federation, Green America, South Sound Clean Clothes Campaign and the WA Fair Trade Coalition.

August 3, 2010 at 3:29 pm 16 comments

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