In an op-ed that is gaining national attentionthe Los Angeles Times tells consumers that they can help Mexican farm workers by requesting that stores carry more fair trade products. The op-ed was published in response to a four-part investigative series revealing the stark conditions facing farm workers in Mexico. Many of the abuses were found in agricultural operations producing vegetables for export to the United States. Safeway, Whole Foods, Subway and the Los Angeles Unified School District were among the retailers and institutions identified as customers of the suppliers and producers implicated in the scandal.

In a sharply worded admonition to consumers, the Los Angeles Times writes:

“Retailers worry about their images and respond to public outrage. But they’ll become aware of it only if consumers speak out. When shoppers demand more of their stores (and school districts and colleges, which are also big buyers of foreign produce), those institutions in turn demand more of their suppliers and growers.”

The Los Angeles Times op-ed refers readers to Fair Trade USA for more information about the fair trade issue.  Fair Trade USA is a non-profit organization that “certifies” consumer items via a labeling program that identifies products that are socially and environmentally sustainable.  Initially known for its work in the coffee sector, the program now includes a bevy of food and personal care products including tea, chocolate, wine and soap.

A list of fair trade products, and the brands and retailers that supply them, is available from the Fair Trade USA website, here.