October 21, 2007
Bricks in DC
Posted by Lawrence Cunningham

            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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