Monday, February 11, 2013

Workers learn the hard way that fair trade certification is basically a bunch of crap

Don't be fooled by Theo's touchy-feely graphics.
When Seattle-based Theo Chocolate workers tried to join Teamsters Local 117, they didn't think the company would stand in their way.

After all, Theo says its mission is to make the world a better place.

Instead, the company hired a union-buster, fired a union supporter,  harassed workers and threatened to close the plant. The organizing drive collapsed.

In a stunning display of hypocrisy, Theo Chocolate brags about its "Fair Trade Certification." Here's its gag-inducing mission statement:
We’re dedicated to making our world a better place. And we’re finding ways to do it through our passion—bringing out the best of the cocoa bean. We are all connected. We touch one another’s lives in incredible ways. And we are responsible to and for one another. From the cacao farmer in the Congo, to the truck driver in Seattle, to the chocolate lover in Philadelphia—there is a thread that runs through us all. Theo believes in celebrating those connections, in strengthening them and in finding inspiration within them—inspiration to change the world.
It gets worse: The Theo workers complained to the IMO, a Swiss group that certifies that companies uphold fair trade standards. The IMO (Institute for Marketecology) responded, "Nothing to see here, keep moving."  And offered no explanation.

Today, the IMO was called out by the International Labor Rights Forum. The Washington, D.C.-based group reported that the IMO "neglected to intervene to uphold its commitment to fair trade standards."

In other words, their "Fair for Life" fair trade certification is hooey. According to the ILRF,
The report, titled Aiding and Abetting, exposes how IMO branded Theo Chocolate, a Seattle-based chocolate company, with its Fair For Life certification despite being informed by Theo workers that the company had hired an anti-union consultant and was violating the international labor standards promoted by Fair For Life during a union organizing campaign.
The ILRF, by the way, recommended the IMO make the results of their audits public and set up an appeals process for workers.

Antonio Christian, director of the Teamsters Human Rights Commission, said:
These workers put their trust in fair trade standards but when Theo crushed them, IMO certified it. The Teamsters and the fair trade community share a common goal of economic justice across the food supply chain. The independent arbitration process proposed in the report will be an excellent step in that direction.
Note to Theo: Fair trade begins at home.