It feels so luxurious to slip on a soft cotton shirt or slide onto soft cotton sheets. If the cotton is grown organically, it feels even better because we are helping the environment. But where did the cotton come from? Who worked in the fields? Who spun it into thread and then wove it into fabric in the mills?

Just because a crop is labeled “organic,” that doesn’t mean the workers who grew and processed it or packed it for shipping enjoyed fair labor practices. They may be victims of labor trafficking, but we have no way to know.

Cotton grown on farms using fair labor practices and farms using forced labor are usually dumped together to be shipped and processed. Even if farms are certified to proclaim that they use fair labor practices, the certifications may not be carefully monitored.

This was a presentation about the cotton industry both in the United States and around the world: how and what cotton is certified, how we can purchase goods made of ethically sourced cotton, and how we can support farm workers so that they are treated fairly. This online session was held on Monday, Feb. 28, at 7 p.m., via Zoom.

Our speakers were Allison Gill from the International Labor Forum; Sam Malriat from the Rodale Institute; and a representative from the Alliance for Fair Food, which was founded by the tomato workers in Immokalee, Florida and now helps farmworkers throughout the United States.

Our West Morris Section, along with our sister Sections Essex and Bergen, co-sponsored this program with the New Jersey Coalition Against Human Trafficking.