Coffee Consumption Consciousness: Where does your coffee come from?

Here at The Ohio State University, we loveee coffee. But what are the effects of this infatuation?



OSU <3’s Coffee

Upon beginning the investigation into where our coffee at OSU is sourced from, the first problem we encountered was the lack of transparency by Hubbard and Cravens. A stark contrast to Crimson Cup, whose website has an entire section on their Friend2Farmer initiative, a direct trade program that goes a step beyond the ideas for Fair Trade. Within their Friend2Farmer program, they are committed to becoming involved in the coffee-growing communities to cultivate a better standard of living for the people within them. The Ohio State University states on its website that they have a commitment to becoming 100% direct trade. The Assistant Director of Dining Services stated that this is why they gave Hubbard and Cravens the deal to be on campus instead of Starbucks two years ago. If it is their goal to become 100% direct trade, this is comforting. But they also state their wish to become 100% transparent about food sourcing, which Hubbard and Cravens is not.

Dining services is primed to sell about 305,000 cups of coffee in spring semester alone through the two on-campus coffee suppliers Crimson Cup and Hubbard and Cravens. A cup of coffee can average around $2.25, which is about $686,250 per semester, for drip coffee and Americano coffee alone. This figure does not include lattes or other specialty drinks. With this, it bears mentioning that on average, 41% of American Adults drink coffee daily, with 60% of the population drinking on occasion. Additionally, around 78% of college students drink coffee daily.

Field to Cup – How do we get our coffee?


Supply chains can be very intricate, and coffee is no exception. Coffee is an industry where monitoring a company’s manufacturing process can become incredibly obscured since there are several steps in the production of coffee. According to Brown Political Review, “The production of coffee generally contains seven levels – growing, harvesting, hulling, drying and packing, bulking, blending, and roasting – in addition to intermediaries, including transporters, exporters, and retailers.” This obscurity can contribute to the sidestepping of labor laws and ethical work conditions in certain countries.

On the Hubbard and Cravens’ website, it is stated that their coffee is sourced from  El Salvador, Colombia, Honduras, and Guatemala.

There are seventeen countries identified by U.S. Department of Labor as culprits of using child labor. These countries are Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Guinea, Honduras, El Salvador, Kenya, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Uganda, and Vietnam. In Côte d’Ivoire, both forced and child labor are used. In the Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report, Columbia is listed as a Tier 1 country ( a country which meets the minimum standards of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA)) while Côte d’Ivoire, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Kenya, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Sierra Leone, Togo, Uganda, and Vietnam are all Tier 2 countries (Do not meet TVPA requirements but are striving to do so). Costa Rica, Guinea, and Tanzania are cited as Tier 2 Watch List Counties (are striving to meet TVPA requirements but there is a great danger for citizens in said country). Additionally, in the TIP Report from 2016 coffee is produced by forced or child labor in Côte d’Ivoire, Mexico, and Togo. However, Verité has uncovered indications of forced labor in the coffee supply chains in Guatemala.

It was found that in Honduras 40% of the coffee that is harvested is done so by children. When prices are high children must leave school to harvest, and when they’re low they must leave school because their families cannot afford to send them. Additionally, in Guatemala, harvesters are not paid minimum wage and are denied the basic employee benefits that are required by law. On coffee plantations, the owners are able to impart forced labor by keeping workers in constant debt, an exploitive move that resembles the sharecropping that was legal after emancipation. The owners of the land make sure that if the workers have constant debt then they have to work for free until the debt is paid off. This leads to workers being in permanent forced labor.

Ethically Sourced?

Fair Trade logos, 

Ethical consumption: “the purchase of a product that concerns a certain ethical issue (human rights, labor conditions, animal well‐being, environment, etc.) and is chosen freely by an individual consumer.”

What does this mean for our coffee? Well, for Crimson Cup, this idea is clear in their Friend2Farmer Program. However, Hubbard and Cravens lacks this transparency, and unlike Crimson Cup, does not proudly display the Fair Trade seal on its website. This concerns us because though we know that OSU is committed to becoming 100% direct trade, does this mean that their direct trade is also Fair Trade?

Fair Trade means purchasing “products from farmers in developing countries on terms that are relatively more favorable than commercial terms and marketing them in developed countries at an ethical premium.” Fair Trade certification requires evaluation by independent auditors to ensure requirements are met. The well-being of the individuals growing and processing products and their surrounding environment  are the main focus.  Once in compliance with the standards companies can sell their products with the Fair Trade Certified™ seal. The premium earned with this label goes to the producers and workers in that supply chain. Companies have to meet rigorous requirements to ensure that their products can be sold under this label.  The Agricultural Production Standard (APS) sets the standards for Fair Trade USA Certified™ agricultural production globally. APS compliance criteria is grouped as : • Empowerment • Fundamental Rights at Work • Wages, Working Conditions and Access to Services • Biodiversity, Ecosystem Function, and Sustainable Production • Traceability and Transparency • Internal Management System.

How can you get involved?

We want OSU to clarify and commit to selling only Fair Trade/Ethically Sourced coffee. If you agree with us:

Sign the Petition!



Add us on social media for updates and news!

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You CAN urge Ohio State to be more transparent in their supply chain! We just want to make sure that this institution is getting coffee from ethical sources!


Written in conjunction with Ana Hoosier, Rachael Herman, Lucky Sandhu, and Harrison Lejeune.

How a Growing Construction Industry will Increase Labor Trafficking via the Internet

Human trafficking is a global problem that has its roots in large structures that can be complex and intricate.  With these large and complex issues at the center of discussion, smaller components and specific industries get lost in the discussion.  And one of these industries is the construction industry.  However, it is important to analyze how interrelated labor trafficking and the Internet are and how it works in relation to the construction industry.   How does the Internet lead to trafficking in this industry?  Are there ways to prevent this?  What do current and future trends in the construction industry imply regarding labor trafficking?  How interconnected is the Internet and the construction industry?  It is important to ask these questions because the Internet plays a key role in recruiting and deceiving individuals.

To discuss the Internet’s role in trafficking for labor, first, it is important to note what the construction industry looks like currently.  In a 2015 report, it was stated that the construction industries in the Middle East and Africa are expected to be the fastest growing from 2016 to 2020 and that it would overtake the Asia-Pacific region.  The report also stated that investor confidence in the Eurozone will continue to decline due to its precarious state, which implies that investment in construction projects will decrease, and that the number of jobs in the industry will decline[1].  According to a 2017 survey on the global construction industry, cost inflation in 2016 was at 3.7% while it was forecasted to be 3.5% in 2017.  This implies raising production costs, on average, across the industry and twenty-four out of forty-three markets were suffering a skills shortage in 2016.  The survey also stated that South America, the Middle East, and Africa had the lowest average hourly wage in USD: 8.1, 7.9, and 4.0 respectively.  Meanwhile, North America, Australia, and Europe had the highest average hourly wage in USD: 72.5, 56.2, and 35.4 respectively[2].  The picture that is currently forming is that the global construction industry is growing, requiring more labor, yet wages in some of the markets that will have the greatest growth are much lower than the markets that are established in the West.  It also implies that construction industries in Europe may be weaker than others and that all markets will need to compensate for increases in cost.

With a current framework for construction in place, it is important to discuss the role of the Internet and its ability to recruit workers.  According to a literature review for a report focused on recruitment and the internet, 79% of Global 500 companies recruit on the Internet and that by 2000, all Global 500 companies had, at least an internet presence through a corporate website.  The report found that two organizations that were general contractors, hired one to ten skilled labor staff using the Internet and that fifteen organizations had planned to utilize the Internet more and that four other organizations said that they would develop a budget for Internet recruiting, spending between one thousand and one hundred thousand dollars.  They also found that fifteen of the responding organizations had indicated that the Internet is a valuable recruitment tool for technical, administrative, and professional staff and eight suggested that it is a valuable tool for skilled labor[3].  This implies that the Internet is a crucial tool meant to recruit workers into the construction industry.  Since Internet recruitment was more utilized than word of mouth when it came to recruitment for technical, administrative, and professional staff, and organizations are going to invest more in recruitment, a shift toward digital recruitment is happening or has already happened.

Now that a framework regarding recruitment over the Internet and the global construction industry has been discussed, the interrelation between the two regarding human trafficking needs to be discussed.  An article discusses the numerous ways traffickers utilize the internet for various forms of trafficking.  For instance, a 19-year-old girl had responded to a modeling ad on the Internet and ended up being expected to have sex with unknown persons (her first client was an undercover officer who ended up saving her).  Another example more closely related to labor exploitation is when Italian and Polish police broke up a network that used an employment agency website as the primary recruitment tool.  There have been efforts to disrupt online trafficking, but their focus has been on sex trafficking, seemingly ignoring individuals trafficked in for labor[4].

In a report detailing the link between the internet and labor trafficking, it stated that it is easy and cheap to use the internet to create fraudulent offers and websites to deceive those who are looking for work into believing that they are replying to a genuine job.  The anonymity of the internet makes it difficult to identify who posted a fraudulent offer, especially in public areas like internet cafes and libraries.   The report also detailed that victim recruitment is increasingly taking place online and that traffickers lure jobseekers with promising advertisements for jobs placed on general advertisement sites and that they approach victims in chat rooms or through social media.  It also details several cases where the Internet lead to labor trafficking.  One case was on construction in the UAE, where workers from Romania were recruited through ads posted on the Internet by a recruitment company in Romania.  These workers had their documents confiscated and were housed in unsanitary conditions and were forced to work without pay.  Another case was regarding Romanian workers in Cyprus, where candidates were required to sign contracts in Romania with two companies in Cyprus and that upon arrival, workers had their identity documents confiscated, along with their contracts.  They were sent to work for different employers where their salaries were sent to the company owned by the recruiter from Cyprus.  They were also forced to live in unsanitary housing and worked sixteen hours a day.  There are other examples, but one last bit the report offers is what to watch out for in ads.  They suggested taking extra care when searching for jobs in areas like catering, agriculture, and construction[5].

What I am trying to showcase here is that the Internet is crucial when it comes to labor trafficking in the construction industry.  Because the Internet is a media that reaches many individuals and is being used as a tool for recruitment in construction, researchers should be looking at the connection between labor trafficking in construction and the Internet.  While many jobs like construction still rely on word of mouth, this technique can refer individuals to websites, where they can find jobs, which may lead them to being exploited.  Because the Internet offers anonymity, it is much easier for traffickers to remain hidden from investigators and they can reach several different audiences rather than being restricted to one country, or nearby countries.  A labor trafficker can reach workers in Romania or Bolivia for jobs in the UAE or China.  Their markets are no longer restricted by geography and their risk for being involved in such markets (trafficking in labor from Eastern Europe to the Middle East or Asia-Pacific region) is greatly reduced because of the Internet’s reach.  They can remain safe in their countries (maybe Romania) while setting up consumer supply chains for labor in the Middle East or Asia.

What I am further suggesting is that there will be an increase in labor trafficking due to the growth of the global construction industry.  A recent report states that the global construction market will grow by eight trillion dollars by 2030.  It also states that Europe will not recoup its lost decade and that the growth will be fueled by markets in China, US, and India[6].  As previously noted, Europe is facing a situation where they will not be able to recoup their losses following the global financial crisis and that other areas like the Middle East and China are going to grow and drive the construction market.  This kind of environment is ripe for traffickers.  With worker shortages, construction companies will look to other sources for labor, usually looking for cheap labor.  Traffickers, using the Internet, will be able to advertise good jobs in these high growth areas and could trick workers in the Eurozone into jobs where they end up exploited.  Some construction companies might engage in trafficking themselves, rather than looking to others to find them labor.  And this exploitation will be fueled by the Internet, as a means of connecting workers to traffickers, construction companies looking for cheap labor, or both, where the company works together with traffickers.  The situation might even be ripe enough for a new wave of trafficking victims, but instead of waves of sex trafficking victims, these will be victims of labor trafficking, travelling and being sent to the Middle East, India, China, and even the US, as these markets are expected to grow.  These victims will come from Europe, expecting good pay and decent accommodations, but may end up trafficked and exploited by traffickers and construction companies, who are looking to keep costs low.

The Internet is a crucial tool for both construction and labor trafficking.  It connects employers with workers who want a job, and it also can con workers into becoming trafficked.  The construction industry is expected to grow and with it, so to will labor trafficking.  While labor trafficking includes other industries like agriculture and home care, Europe may see a new wave of trafficking victims, namely, Europeans being trafficked to the Middle East, India, China, and the US for the sole purpose of construction.  Researchers must devote energy and resources to studying this connection between the Internet, labor trafficking, and construction in order to come up with good strategies that will prevent this from occurring.

Word Count- 1627

[1] PRNewswire.  (2015 Feb. 17).  Global Construction Market Worth $10.3 Trillion in 2020 (50 Largest, Most Influential Markets).  PRNewswire.  Found at

[2] (2017).  International Construction Market Survey 2017.  Turner and Townsend.  Found at

[3] Haas, C.T., Glover, R.W., Tucker, R.L., and Terrien, R.K. (Feb. 2001).  Impact of the Internet on the Recruitment of Skilled Labor.  The University of Texas at Austin; Austin, Texas.  Found at

[4] Dixon, H.B. Jr. (2013).  Human Trafficking and the Internet* (*and Other Technologies, too).  The Judges’ Journal, 52(1). Found at

[5] FINE TUNE. (N.G).  The Role of the Internet in Trafficking for Labor and Exploitation.  Found at

[6] Robinson, G.  (N.G.).  Global Construction Market to Grow $8 trillion by 2030: driven by China, US, and India.  Global Construction Perspectives and Oxford Economics, London, United Kingdom.  Found at


Link to my blog-

Labor Trafficking in Context: From Central Asia to Russia


Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia has been a destination for substantial numbers of people from the Central Asian republics migrating for work. However, the route to work in Russia is often a perilous one- filled with opportunities for exploitation and labor trafficking. Although some migrants may be considered irregular while others initially enter the country with legal documentation, the risk for labor trafficking is high in either case. To understand this complex example of trafficking, we must ask, why is it happening and what factors facilitate trafficking here? To answer these questions, I will examine how the problem is situated and what factors shape this issue of labor trafficking.

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Who is Sweeping Our Streets? A Close Look at Labour Trafficking in Russia

The fact that a rather well-known Tajik pop singer Nigina Amonkulova has released a music video about labour migration[i] highlights the extent to which this issue has become ingrained in everyday lives of millions of people both in Russia and in many of the former Soviet Republics. Interestingly, according to ASIA-Plus, the video was made with the support of International Organization for Migration (IOM).[ii] The description of the video reads:

“A wife who stayed at home [in Tajikistan] learns computer skills and becomes a sole provider for her family.”[iii]

According to 2018 report by Center of Strategic Research, approximately 4 million labour migrants (mostly from Uzbekistan and Tajikistan) have been legally arriving in Russia with the intent to work at any given time between 2013 and 2017.[iv] Admittedly, the means by which migrant workers enter Russia and obtain employment are not exclusively lawful. For example, 2017 Trafficking in Persons report indicates that 1.5 million “irregular migrants” are estimated to be engaged in Russian labour market in some form.[v] Certain human rights activists even allege that in Moscow alone there are as many as 3 million migrant workers, with a fair share of them being employed illicitly.[vi] Consequently, a lack of a lawful status in a foreign country is obviously correlated with the individuals’ susceptibility to human trafficking, even in the areas that are not typically viewed as underground labour practices, such as street sweeping.[vii]

In this blog post, I will analyze the factors that put immigrant workers employed in this sector of the labour market at risk of trafficking, as well as attempt to illustrate how Russia’s recent systematic implementation of stricter immigration policies has negatively affected the likelihood of legal employment among labour migrants from the former Soviet Republics.

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Human Trafficking in the US: Misconceptions vs. Reality

Human trafficking in the United States has a racialized and classed history. Concerns about trafficking began with anti-slavery and anti-prostitution movements in the 1800s, and moved into a “white slavery” panic, the fear for middle-class white women’s innocence and place in society.  It is easy to see these fears manifested in discourses surrounding human trafficking today. Movies that center around human trafficking many times show “innocent girl-children exploited by treacherous, unscrupulous pimps and criminals,” (Szorenyi et al, 2014) with a racialization of the perpetrators. Human trafficking and sex trafficking have come to be synonymous, when in actuality there are many forms of trafficking besides sex trafficking.

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The Enforcement Gap and the New York City Police Departments Treatment of LGBT Human Trafficking Survivors

Human Trafficking is a phenomena that occurs in all 50 States within the United States of America, largely occurring in large population or commerce hubs.6 Of these states one of the largest sites of trafficking is New York State, with dense population centers such as New York City which boasts 8.5 million individuals alone.7 This city serves as the perfect grounds for the trafficking of persons, especially of those who fall under the LGBTQ+ community. New York City has historically served as a haven for the LGBTQ+ community, as well as the stage for clashes between the community and local law enforcement. These clashes unfortunately continue on today between the New York City Police Department as individuals identifying within the LGBTQ+ community who experienced anti-LGBT violence 48% also experienced police misconduct. On the whole of the LGBTQ+ community surveyed in New York 54% were stopped by police which is compared to the 28% of non-LGBTQ+ individuals.4 These trends create barriers for law enforcement which directly effect the ability of law enforcement to identify and enforce policy around human trafficking. It is these barriers and their effects within New York City’s LGBTQ+ community that we will view with a critical lens today.

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The Rohingya Crisis: Human Trafficking in Context


Since the late 1970’s, the government of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar (Burma) has enforced discriminatory policies on a multitude of minority ethnic groups, the most known of which are the Rohingya Muslims. These policies include denial of full citizenship to Rohingya Muslims, extortion and/or arbitrary taxation, seizure of land, forced eviction and demolition of homes, extreme limitations on movement within the Rakhine State and elsewhere via necessary movement permits, and legal/ financial restrictions on marriage. Rohingya Muslims were and still are forced to work on infrastructure and in military camps for little or no pay in Myanmar.

There are several instances of mass migration of the Rohingya to Bangladesh, then their repatriation. It is a cycle that leaves these desperate people vulnerable to several forms of human trafficking, primarily young Rohingya women and girls (however, there are several documented cases of labor traffickers targeting Rohingya men). Within this blog post, I will further explore the background/causation of the mass migration of the Rohingya into Bangladesh, and the trafficking that occurs within the camps and the region.

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The Sochi Olympics and Migrant Labor in Russia

Bird’s-eye view of the Pyeongchang stadium from

Sochi Olympics fail 34 from Wonderful Engineering

February 25th marked the end of the recent 2018 Pyeongchang Olympic Winter Games. With general feelings of success, the world’s participating nations are now left to bask in their accomplishments, praise the achievements of their heroic olympians, and prepare for the coming Tokyo Olympic Summer Games to be held in 2020. In the wake of the heady days of competition with both the Olympic and Paralympic Games coming to a close, organizers in South Korea are planning to demolish several of their new buildings, according to npr and vox news outlets. This type of news stands in stark contrast to the events of only four years ago, with the international scandal that was the Sochi Winter Olympic Village. The internet was flooded with vines, tweets, and articles (like “Epic Construction Fails at Sochi Winter Olympics in Pictures” from the website Wonderful Engineering) documenting the perceived hilarity and “fail-“ure of Russia’s olympic construction project. However, these jesting images obfuscate the dark truths about the Sochi construction project. Specifically, the Sochi Olympic Village was built on the backs and often lives of migrant workers from Russia itself as well as the Balkans and Central asia who were unwittingly trafficked into construction jobs. This specific context is important to explore as an instance of human trafficking because it changes the image of the victim and draws attention to a different economy, one less empathetically charged more complexly integrated into institutions.

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Contextualizing Human Trafficking

Contextualizing Human Trafficking and Forced Labor

In the previous blog post, many of us noted the importance of the aesthetics of humanitarian communication affecting the ethics of solidarity, or how one seeing violence affects the way one reacts to said violence. Further, this problematizing of violence in itself shapes laws to counter the violence which we see, whether that is forced labor or trafficking. Yet, many of these laws are general and this is why it is so detrimental to contextualize trafficking to further understand the issue itself. To explain trafficking and forced labor and its causes and entanglements in different cultural, political, and economic forces is no easy task. It is, like this prompt states, complex and varied across contexts, which is why one needs to consider the importance of contextualizing forced labor.

The Need to Contextualize Human Trafficking and Forced Labor

In the introduction, I called attention to the fact that many laws that are set in place to counter forced labor or trafficking are, in a sense, general. Today, it is “widely recognized that effectively tackling forced labor in the global economy means addressing its ‘root causes’”, with many believing poverty and globalization to be the ‘root causes’ (1). Yet, these two terms are too broad to fully explain what causes the exploitation of workers and their work. This also limits ways in which policymakers can address the issue; “if we cannot understand the issues we face, we are limited in what we can do about them” (1). It is not that these root causes do not matter, it is just they do not present lawmakers with the full picture. When we contextualize human trafficking or forced labor, we are better able to understand other types of trafficking or forced labor and better counter the issue. How do we better understand trafficking and forced labor though?

According to Confronting root causes: forced labor in global supply chains, forced labor is not simply caused by poverty and globalization. It must be approached with a “systematic and informed fashion” since forced labor is itself systematic (1). It is embedded in “deeper socio-economic structures that lie at the core of the capitalist global economy” (1). Because of this, Confronting asserts that instead of “simple consequence(s) of greed or the moral shortcomings of individuals, forced labor in global supply chains is a structural phenomenon that results when predictable, system-wide dynamics intersect to create a supply of highly exploitable workers and a business demand for their labor” (1). Forced labor resembles the economic system of supply and demand with its dynamics causing forced labor to be: poverty, identity and discrimination, limited labor protections, and restrictive mobility regimes (1). These dynamics are on the supply side that create a “pool of workers vulnerable to exploitation” (1). Forced labor, on the demand side, is created by concentrated corporate power and ownership, outsourcing, irresponsibly sourcing practices, and governance gaps (1). These dynamics “create pressure within the market for highly exploitable forms of labor or open up spaces with which that labor can be exploited” (1). With this in mind, I believe it is easier to understand trafficking and forced labor and therefore contextualize the issue. From here I would like to explore actual examples from the recent past or today that can be looked at with this new focus.

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Bride Abductions in Kazakhstan and Human Trafficking Discourse: Tradition vs Moral Acuity


Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, there have been efforts in Kazakhstan to:

             a) return to tradition and leave the practices of the Soviet Union in the past and

             b) to modernize the legal, political and economic systems of the country.

These two distinct efforts do not always mesh well together. The efforts to return to traditional ‘Kazakh’ practices often chafe against certain human rights practices, including women’s rights. Within the past 30 years, perceived traditional marriage practices, such bride abductions (also known as bride kidnappings), have returned to certain parts of Kazakhstan. These specific marriage practices are a prime example of the inconsistencies and moral and cultural dilemmas that occur while pursuing the two above goals. Continue reading