Workers in the NAFTA factories should earn a living wage.

Maquiladora Worker on the Mexican Border.
Photo by Mary Jordan, Washington Post

Why buy fair trade?  Fair trade is a commitment to the idea of a “living wage” for the first producer of a product sold in the world economy.

U.S. companies hired Mexican workers for wages that are about 1/10th of the wages earned in the U.S.  A normal work week in a NAFTA maquiladora is 48 hours.  A worker should earn enough money to meet the basic needs of shelter, food, medical care and entertainment with just enough left over to save for vacation, extraordinary and/or emergency expenses.

The idea of a living wage is different from the minimum wage.  Meeting the minimum wage does not necessarily meet the basic needs of typical workers.

Maquiladora workers hired in Mexico often struggle to secure a living wage from their employers, often American companies that fled the U.S. to avoid paying union (living) wages.  Working women typically complain about insufficient wages for stressful 10-12 hour workdays.  The wages barely help the workers survive, not thrive.  Often there is not enough money for meat, milk, fresh vegetables and for children’s school supplies.

A multinational corporation that does not pay a living wage is sending out a product into the market economy that is not fair trade.   Do you know if your household purchases are fair trade?

2011 Conference on Domestic Workers

2011 Conference Recommendation on Decent Work for Domestic Workers