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Bricks in DC

The brick that rioters used to shatter the front door of the Starbucks in my building on 24th & M Friday night contained the message: "fair trade, not free trade."  Although this brick did not strike anyone, as a similar brick did up the street hours earlier, is doing physical damage to Starbucks a good way to advance this cause?

Starbucks is a target for such attacks despite its policy and ongoing efforts to increasingly buy and sell more "Certified Fair Trade" coffee. It shares the fair trade movement's objectives; it is the largest purchaser of Certified Fair Trade coffee in North America and sells such coffee worldwide; it pays premium prices for it to ensure farmer profitability even though this increases costs to its consumers and reduces its profits.

Critics, including the Organic Consumers Association and Global Exchange, complain about the pace of the Starbucks effort. They contend that Certified Fair Trade coffee still represents less than 4% of Starbucks total worldwide sales.  Another common complaint of these critics who have been maintaining the so-called Starbucks Campaign: "Starbucks rarely offers certified Fair Trade coffee as their coffee of the day."

The persons who hurled this brick did not identify themselves or any organization in whose name they were acting. At the store this morning, scanning the coffee offered for sale, the most striking thing was the ubiquitous labeling that the coffee is "Certified Fair Trade."  The premium pricing was reflected in my bill.  The costs of the shattered glass will appear later.

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Matt Tyler
post Dec 13 2007, 04:05 AM

The writer of this account is an elite, inside the beltway, free-market fundamentalist type who probably doesn't get out into the world the rest of us live in very often.

The Starbucks in his building probably stocks a lot of fair-trade coffee to impress (and make more money off of) their well-to-do patrons; But according to accounts we've gathered, in midwest, the under-paid barista typically responded, "Huh? Fair trade? What is that?" when asked for fair trade coffee. Larger affluent markets on the west coast (such as San Francisco) tended to fully stock it, but more rural areas less so. Basically, Starbucks carries fair trade when it is convenient, profitable, and/or trendy.

The above author thinks starbuck's mug is 4% full of "corporate responsibility"; I see the mug as 96% full of immeasurable human suffering. The average price paid to small coffee farmers in the developing world by conventional coffee suppliers is very low - usually barely a subsistence wage, if that.

The large power (and capitalization) difference between the well-financed buyers for large commodity traders (or state purchasing authorities) and the individual small farmer in the developing world is such that the market is so distorted that it is not free. This is point these beltway trollops simply don't want to see.

post Dec 13 2007, 08:51 PM

If you are a progressive and want to really jack up your blood pressure, read the replies at the source. Makes global warming sound like a good thing ... hey, the beltway is at sea level, isn't it? --d