Does your coffee have blood in it?
If you’re buying coffee from the major corporations that control most of the world’s coffee trade, there’s a good chance that it does. The label on coffee doesn’t tell you about the hidden cost of an affordable cup of coffee, or everything that went into it…
Countries that produce coffee, from Central America to Northern Africa, are encouraged to keep prices low. When these countries have tried to support workers’ efforts to improve their conditions, they’ve been attacked by their own elites and foreign governments. The most famous case is Guatemala: when President Jacobo Arbenz supported labor unions, he was removed in 1954 by the Guatemalan military and the CIA, leading to a 36-year civil war that left over 200,000 people dead.
In many coffee-producing countries, plantation owners hire paramilitary thugs to brutally harass farmers who try to form unions and organize other workers. For people who work in the production of coffee, the elites send a very clear message: “Either accept miserable working conditions or else move somewhere else. If you try to fight for better conditions or more fair payment, you run the risk of getting yourself assassinated.”
Most of the world’s coffee is controlled by three corporations: Phillip Morris, Nestlé and Sara Lee. These huge companies often pay coffee farmers miserable prices without guaranteeing a stable wage. Farming coffee becomes a gamble: the farmers who invest the most work in our coffee are paid a few pennies, while middlemen and corporate distributers keep the profits for themselves.
Considering all of the violence and injustice involved in the coffee trade, it’s no wonder that many coffee farmers leave their home towns and migrate to the city or to another country. For many, it’s just not possible to survive farming coffee.
There is another way…
Fair Trade-certified coffee offers a real alternative to the unjust status quo of coffee. Coffee that bears the Fair Trade label was bought from worker-owned co-ops that make decisions democratically and negotiate a fair price for their product.
Look for these logos to see if your coffee is Fair Trade-certified:
WHAT CAN YOU DO ABOUT IT?
Right now, Fair Trade-certified coffee purchase from worker-owned cooperatives makes up a small percentage of the world’s coffee trade. If you’d like to change that fact, contact C.A.F.E. for more information about how to do so. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org , or call 619-487-1275.
For more information about the blood that goes into unfairly traded coffee…
Coffee With Pleasure: Just Java and World Trade, by Laure Waridel.
“Black Gold”, a documentary on the coffee trade in Ethiopia. Currently on YouTube: