Maybe you were aware of this already.  Maybe you weren’t. But I hope we can agree – it’s time to rip this curtain down.  It’s time to expose the truth.  It’s time to set the captives free.

Most people don’t think there is much they can do, but that’s also because they don’t realize that they are already doing something.  By simply making purchases in our consumeristic, capitalistic country, we make choices – whether we know it or not – to support slavery every single day.  It is our responsibility to know exactly where and how our products are being made.  Ignorance is no longer bliss when you realize that your purchase could be going into the pockets of those who use slave labor to produce their goods.

In this blog and more to come, I plan to highlight ways that we can make sure we are supporting companies and organizations that are being ethical, as well as sending a clear message to those who aren’t that we won’t tolerate slavery, and won’t buy products made by slaves.

First, a history and economics lesson.  When William Wilberforce, the renowned British abolitionist of the 17/1800s, wanted to bring about an end to slavery in his time, he realized that words and policy making may never be enough.  So what would get at the hearts of those who held the power?  Well, power has no heart – it only has a money bag.  At the time, sugar was not only a staple in the kitchen, it was also one of the main sources of slave labor.  So how might we challenge slavery?  Perhaps by refusing to buy sugar!

Today, this idea still works.  We may not feel we have a voice when it comes to creating or enforcing laws, but we can send a very clear message to companies by simply refusing to purchase goods created unethically.  By remaining ignorant, poor people get poor and the rich get richer – but even worse, slaves remain enslaved, and more slaves are forced into slavery to make sure that production only grows to match the needs of the market.

How are we supposed to know if our goods are created by slave labor?  That’s a little harder, but there are a few tools that make the research as easy as pie.

Free2work.org is a great place to start.

Free2work.org is a joint project between the Not For Sale Campaign and International Labor Rights Forum.

The Not For Sale Campaign is working to equip and mobilize smart activists to deploy innovative solutions to re-abolish slavery in their own backyards and across the globe. NFSC has developed an extensive network in the US and around the world of people dedicated to ending slave and forced labor. Sign up for NFSC’s email list here:.

International Labor Rights Forum is an advocacy organization dedicated to achieving just and humane treatment for workers worldwide. ILRF focuses on child and forced labor, women’s rights, trade policy, freedom of association and other issues related to labor rights. Sign up for ILRF’s email list Here — Free2work.org/aboutus

So, how does Free2work work?  It’s a one-stop search engine where consumers can search companies and products and find out what their grade is when it comes to how their products are produced – i.e., are they ethical, are they transparent, are they making necessary changes, etc.

Currently there aren’t as many companies and products available to search as there needs to be, but they wanted to get something up ASAP, and they have two scheduled updates in the near future – one in February, and one in May (I think).

But wait, it does get better.  Yeah – there’s an ap for that!  You can download for free an ap for your iPhone/iPod that lets you automatically scan a barcode, and it will tell you the grade of the product.  That way you can check while you are shopping if the product you are interested in buying was created by slaves.

And pretty soon, there is going to be a really neat feature added to this – an option to email the CEO of the company you are researching.  You can either tell them thank you for making sure their products are ethically and freely made, or you can tell them you didn’t buy their product because it wasn’t.

We all know now that slavery happens.  Will you continue to pay slave owners so they can buy more slaves, or will you be part of the solution?

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