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Information for consumers about how their spending habits affect human rights, animal rights and welfare, and the environment.

Recent News

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2014 November 15 Los Angeles Times: "Southern California is hotbed for wage theft in garment industry"

Sweatshop conditions and pay are being investigated by the Labor Department. Some methods of wage theft are paying by the piece at rates sometimes equivalent to less than minimum wage, "pay stubs [that] could be redeemed only at check cashing stores that charged fees", failing to pay proper rates for overtime and sick pay, and forcing employees to " complete tasks before clocking in or after clocking out".

"Experts say intense competition among garment manufacturers has created incentives for companies to shortchange workers, many of whom are undocumented immigrants hesitant to report labor abuses."

"The contractors targeted by the Labor Department supply some of the nation's most recognizable retailers, including Macy's, JC Penney and Kohl's."

2014 November 13 Shell Oil suit ruled unconstitutional.

After having plans for drilling in environmentally sensitive areas in Alaska approved, Shell filed three suits to preemptively prevent environmental and Alaskan native advocates from suing Shell to stop the drilling. Two of the suits were dismissed; one is still pending.

2014 October: ConsumerReports.org on genetically modified organisms (GMOs)

Their tests found GMOs in "virtually all of the samples we tested of products that made only a 'Natural' claim", contrary to what most consumers would expect from the label. GMOs are especially prominent in corn and soy based foods. GMO labeling is mandatory in many countries but not in the U.S. Consumer Reports thinks it should be mandatory in the U.S., based on the precautionary principle of better safe than sorry. "Some animal studies suggest that GMOs may cause damage to the immune system, liver, and kidneys." GMOs are strongly defended by seed companies such as Monsanto, which manufactures the weed killer Roundup which doesn't harm GMO crops, but "superweeds" have sprung up which are not killed by Roundup.

For more information on labels, see Products and Services, "What's in a Label?"

2014 October 25 Commondreams.org article: "Indigenous Communities Take Chevron to Global Court for 'Crimes Against Humanity'"

"Chevron's repeated refusal to clean up its toxic contamination of Ecuador's Amazon rainforest constitutes an "attack" on civilian populations and should be investigated by the International Criminal Court in the Hague, impacted indigenous and farming communities charged this week in a formal complaint (pdf) to the global body." Toxic waste dumped by Texaco, acquired by Chevron in 2001, has had disastrous impacts on the environment and public health of 80 communities and tens of thousands of people, the suit says.

2014 October 25: Reducing fossil fuels vs. jobs loss

Drilling for fossil fuels has disproportionately affected people of color, low income, and indigenous peoples. In 2001 the Black Mesa Water Coalition of Navajo and Hopi youth "persuaded the Navajo Tribal Council to cut off Peabody Coal’s access to the [Navaho Aquifer]", which had deprived residents of access to clean water. This victory was offset by the loss of jobs for Peabody workers. Some argue that the answer to this dilemma is a cooperative, rather than capitalistic, economy to support locally owned, environmentally sustainable projects. Black Mesa is working toward such an economy.

2014 October 14: Greenpeace campaign vs. Shell Oil: "Lego is ending its partnership with Shell gas stations after a three-month environmental campaign against Arctic drilling."

"The campaign launched by Greenpeace featured a video entitled, 'Everything is NOT Awesome,' playing off the theme song of The Lego Movie."

2014 September 30: NPR report says Europeans worry the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) will lower food safety requirements.

The TTIP is being promoted by the U.S. in secretive talks with the European Union. Much of what is known about it is the result of leaks. The European Union operates on the precautionary principle in regard to food safety, and objects to procedures common in the U.S. such as chlorine baths to control salmonella in chicken carcasses, hormones to fatten up cattle faster, and genetically engineered crops (GMOs).

2014 September 25: China Digital Times article says "Foxconn Reluctantly Bringing Democracy to Chinese Labor".

"Foxconn, the manufacturing contractor responsible for assembling as much as 40% of the world’s consumer electronics [such as Apple iPads and iPhones and many brands of computers], has achieved infamy for shoddy labor conditions, worker suicides, and the use of underpaid and underaged student interns." Worker shortages in China are forcing Foxconn and other companies to make some conciliatory gestures toward workers' rights to organize. Workers are winning rights to vote for their union representatives, but the unions them selves are state controlled, and although large labor protests in China have been widespread recently, the government has vigorously censored news of them in the Chinese press and social media.

2014 September 16: Truthout article says socially responsible investment (SRI) funds still contribute to human rights abuses.

Many of these funds are still replete with highly profitable technology stocks, such as Apple and Samsung, that have ongoing human rights abuses. Kevin Slaten of China Labor Watch says the Corporate Social Responsibility Reports that many SRI fund managers rely on are really just public relations tools. "Companies like Apple are "paying for audits instead of investing money to address the problems," he says.

The article says a more effective way to bring about change is a divestment campaign, such as the one that brought about the end of apartheid in South Africa. "Groups like 350.org and We Divest are using divestment for their own causes, trying to slow global warming and bring justice to Palestine."

2014 September 7: New York Times Business Day article: Just 13, and Working Risky 12-Hour Shifts in the Tobacco Fields

Teen-agers in North Carolina harvesting tobacco plants can be exposed to nicotine poisoning, pesticides, and dehydration--risks that are greater for children than adults due to physical and neurological characteristics. In the face of strong opposition from farmers and politicians, labor officials have been unsuccessful in banning work in tobacco fields and with tractors for children under 16.

"Federal law allows those 12 and older to work on farms for unlimited hours, as long as there is no conflict with school. For nonfarm work, federal law sets 14 as the minimum age and restricts work for children under 16 to eight hours a day."

Fair Trade News: Fair World Project works to protect the strength and integrity of the term fair trade.

Older news has been moved to In the News and can be searched by date or category. Still older news can be searched in the Archives.

Of Special Concern

Special Report: Chocolate

2013: How to make sure your chocolate purchases do not support child slavery.

Special Report: Torture

There is hope! Please see the post on a January 2012 anti-torture resolution by the city of Chicago, and how other municipalities can do the same. If you do not see it at first, refresh the page by clicking the refresh button on your browser bar or pressing the f5 key.

Special Report: Fair Trade

2013 update summarizes changes in standards and controversy over increasing availability of products with the certification by making it easier to get certified vs. maintaining more rigorous standards. Fair World Project offers suggestions for resolving the conflict by making product labels more transparent about percentage of ingredients that are certified.

Special Report: Modern-Day Slavery

2012 Oct. 3: good news!Green America reports that Hershey Co. "will be certifying 100 percent of its cocoa by 2020 and urged the chocolate giant to go 100 percent Fair Trade with incremental benchmarks."

2012 Oct. 5: more good news! Chipotle signed the Fair Food Agreement with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. Trader Joe's signed back in February 2012.