A Fair Trade Certified™ seal indicates that an item was made by people in safe and healthy working conditions, who have a voice in their workplace, and that the workplace is one where women are treated equally. It also lets you know that workers received additional money for the Fair Trade items they made, which can help improve their lives.
MEC Label sold our first Fair Trade Certified clothing in 2014 – women’s t-shirts – and we’ve continued with this program ever since. For each Fair Trade Certified product, MEC pays an added premium and these funds go to a worker-managed bank account. A worker-led Fair Trade committee votes and decides how to use the funds. They may choose to fund scholarships, pay bonuses or improve community-level services, such as transportation or access to healthcare.
Some of the ways workers have used the premiums for MEC Label products include:
- Pithampur, India: Home to the first Fair Trade Certified factory we worked with. Over the years, workers have voted to purchase raincoats for the monsoon season, water filters for clean drinking water at home, and household items (such as a refrigerator, fan, blender or washing machine) to cut down on the time spent doing chores and increase time with family.
- Sampran, Thailand: Workers voted to use premiums to fund language classes at the factory, and to purchase fitness equipment for their workplace. They’ve also used them for a weekly fitness class, with incentives like a t-shirt, running shoes and a towel for continuous participation. This project encourages health, wellness and camaraderie for their team.
- Madurai, India: Workers have voted to use premiums for items like induction ovens, pressure cookers and tiffin carriers to help save them time preparing homemade food. Most recently, they’ve used them for electric fans, irons and water filters for clean drinking water.
Through the Fair Trade program, the factory employees learn about Fair Trade, their rights under the standards, the democratic process by electing co-workers to a Fair Trade committee, how to manage and invest income, and how to communicate more effectively with management.
Overall, Fair Trade certification is empowering for everyone involved: workers trying to improve their lives, factory managers wanting to do things right, brands like MEC backing these efforts, and people who want their purchases to be a choice that matters.