Fair Trade in the Time of COVID-19

As the COVID-19 pandemic spreads around the world, it is far from a “great equalizer,” as some have called it. Instead, it highlights the existing inequities in our system. Yet even in the midst of crisis, communities and organizers are responding, showing the possibilities of another kind of society, one centered on people and not just profit.

As we face one of the greatest global crises of our lifetimes, solidarity is needed more than ever: truly, the only way through this is together.

We’ve rounded up a list of efforts that we know of, sorted by some of the key fair trade principles that guide our movement—and will be updating as more arise. If you have time for just one action, please send a short message to your elected representatives calling for support of small-scale farmers and food workers, not corporate agribusiness.

Safe Working Conditions

Democratic and Transparent Organizations

  • We need a swift, inclusive bailout that is rooted in justice and prioritizes those who are hit first and worst by COVID-19 and its economic consequences. The Sunrise Movement and a broad coalition of other organizations (including Fair World Project) spell out what that could look like—tell your Congressperson that we need a people-centered recovery that brings us closer to a thriving, regenerative economy. Send a message at ThePeoplesBailout.org.

Long-Term Direct Trading Relationships

  • As fast fashion companies walk away from the impoverished people who sew their clothes, fair trade fashion company Maggie’s Organics is doing the opposite, stepping up to offer buy-one, give one socks for the month of April in an effort to keep paychecks coming and share what they do best. Learn more at MaggiesOrganics.com.

Protecting the Most Vulnerable

  • Food and farmworkers have been declared “essential” in this crisis, yet many of them are undocumented, making them ineligible for aid and often unable to access medical care. Cosecha has a fund to support those families–learn more and give.
  • Street vendors are often immigrant small business owners and workers, making them ineligible for government support such as paid sick leave, unemployment insurance, or even most loans and grants offered to small businesses, making an already dire situation, critical. The New York Street Vendor Project has a fund to support them.
  • Restaurant workers, gig workers and other hourly workers are particularly hard hit by closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic. One Fair Wage has a fund to give (or get!) assistance: OFWEmergencyFund.org

Community-Led Development

  • Mutual aid networks are organizing in communities across the globe as people reach out to offer what support and resources they can and share their needs. Decentralized and locally volunteer-run, find a group in your community or resources to start your own at USACovidMutualAid.org or MutualAidHub.org. Search online for what’s happening in your community outside the U.S.
  • Fair Trade Federation members and their partners around the globe are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic by addressing their communities’ most pressing needs. Some are switching to making urgently-needed face masks, others are setting up handwashing stations or providing food and medicine. Learn more about these vital initiatives here.

Capacity Building

  • For those who may not urgently need the $1200 relief check the U.S. government has promised, Resource Generation has a #ShareMyCheck campaign to help redistribute the money to those who are not getting relief. Find out more at ShareMyCheck.org.

Creating Opportunities for Disadvantaged Producers

  • The World Fair Trade Organization has launched a #StayHomeLiveFair campaign, asking people to share photos and stories of their favorite products as well as offering ways to find fair trade products from home (and a crowdfunding list of producer organizations seeking support. Find them all at WFTO.com/SupportFairTrade (scroll down towards the bottom).

Other fair trade principles include traceability and transparency, education, fair payment, no forced or child labor, and respect for the environment. Let us know if you have a pandemic response initiative that might fit in any of these categories or the above—our solidarity is our strength, in the words of the global network of small-scale farmers, producers, and workers, La Via Campesina.


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