Ikea, It's A Total No!

I'm Never Ordering Online From Ikea Again

Sleeping on the floor for two months teaches you a lot of things about yourself.

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Storytime.

It's August 19th, 2018. It's sunny, hot, and it's all clear skies above your head. You're moving into your first apartment in just one week from today and are finally getting around to buying a new bed frame for your bedroom. A little late, but better now right?

Now, I've ordered a lot of things on the internet. And I mean a lot. Textbooks, pens, posters, and random things that only Amazon could compel you to buy. But, I've never bought anything as big as a Bed. I was kind of excited, I mean who wouldn't be excited about getting a new bed?

I ordered my IKEA bed frame on August 19th, 2018. It didn't come until October 13th.

Now before I start, I was going to buy this bed in-store. I had been in the IKEA store at the Mall of America the week before and when I had gone to buy the bed they were all out of stock. I had some other options I liked as well but they were out of stock as well or no longer what I really wanted. So when I had first initially ordered my IKEA bed, the date it was scheduled to arrive was September 5th.

I wasn't really surprised by the late date as this was a very hectic time for IKEA. It's back to school season and of course, new furniture is needed for college kids moving into their new apartments and such. So I waited, and when September 5th rolled around I didn't really think much of it. Not knowing at the time that I was supposed to be present at the time of delivery, I just assumed that they were going to deliver it late. So then a week went by and I got suspicious.

I went onto the IKEA website to track my order and it's current status, and when I checked it said that there had been a failed delivery attempt on September 5th. The day it was supposed to come. I knew for a fact that they had not tried to deliver my bed because I had been there the whole day and should have received a call if they were on their way. So I called the IKEA customer service number. When they answered, something I would take for granted in a few weeks, the guy on the line was really nice and told me they weren't really sure what had happened but he would make sure to re-send the delivery order to me. He also suggested that I call the delivery company to ask why it hadn't been delivered because the delivery company isn't 'associated' with IKEA.

When I had called them, the woman who had answered told me that only one package out of the three I needed had been in the warehouse when they were about to load my bed for delivery. I thought that was weird and didn't think much about it since I assumed they were going to deliver all three parts on my next delivery date. Haha, nope. Haha, the universe did not agree with me that week.

When they delivered my 'bed', they had only delivered 1 out of the 3 parts. The frame. I was still missing the supports that were supposed to be on the bottom as well as my bed slates. Saying I was irritated was an understatement because I just wanted to be able to sleep on my bed. But where the frustration and wanting to drop off a cliff started is when I tried to contact IKEA. I called IKEA over 30 times in the span of two weeks and their line was bust every single time.

To cut it short, I got in contact with IKEA by sending them a fairly agree tweet, they finally said they would send me the rest of my parts but they only ended up sending out the second part and not the third part, I had an embarrassing meltdown, and finally got into contact with an IKEA customer service representative by some miracle (shout out to the lady on the line, she really kept me from having a breakdown).

Then October 13th, 2018. My bed FINALLY arrives. Being skeptical, I slowly put together my bed with the help of some of my amazing roommates holding my breath the whole time. What if there was a part missing? What if it just crumbled unexpectedly in a freak accident? But no, my bed was finally complete and I could sleep in actual comfort!

In conclusion, I don't think I'll be ordering anything from IKEA anytime soon. If ever. But I'm not trying to discourage anyone from buying a bed frame online from IKEA. Just giving you a friendly warning.

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5 Companies That Still Use Slave Labor

Let's talk about the modern slave trade.
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Growing up in a country where freedom is always a right and expectation — whether you live in the United States or one of the other 86 "free" countries — it is easy to believe that, compared to the well-known 1800s slave trade, we are doing pretty well when it comes to civil liberties, freedom, and overall social welfare. Documents such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) have been approved by the General Assembly of the United Nations, meaning that the vast majority of nations have agreed that every individual has the right to basic human dignity.

Despite this significant progress, however, there are 45.8 million people enslaved today, more than any other time in world history. The United States Department of Homeland Security has launched the Blue Campaign in light of this growing industry, hoping to raise awareness of the human trafficking that persists in local communities. Additionally, you can watch this video for a summary on the Global Slavery pandemic. I will write about the problem of human trafficking in the United States on another day; however, global slavery affects us whether it is in our city or halfway around the world. In fact, companies that you purchase from every single day use slave labor for their work instead of paying employees a fair wage.* Don't believe me?

Here are five companies that are using slave labor to make their products TODAY, and where you should shop instead.

Nestle

Nestle is one of the largest companies that has consistently carried out human rights violations all over the world. Not only did they illegally take water from California during the drought in 2015, but in the 1970s they got third-world mothers to use infant formula by selling it at reduced prices, and then when the mothers could no longer breastfeed, they raised the price of formula so much that many children were malnourished and starving.

Their most recent problems revolve around slavery in the cocoa industry. In 2009 several former child slaves sued Nestle because they were trafficked and forced to work on Nestle farms in Cote d'Ivoire. Another suit was filed by former child slaves in 2014, stating that "Studies by International Labour Organization, UNICEF, the Department of State, and numerous other organizations have confirmed that thousands of children are forced to work without pay in the Ivorian economy." In 2016, the Fair Labor Association executed an assessment of Nestle in Cote d'Ivoire. They claimed that 70% of Nestle farms were not trained on the prohibition of forced labor. Further, they stated that "there is no process in place to monitor, report, and remediate cases of forced labor at the farms." With this in mind, they did find evidence of potential forced and uncompensated labor. Additionally, they found evidence of child labor—many of these children never enrolling in school — in which children were getting paid little to nothing, and often working in dangerous conditions.

INSTEAD: buy from Ben & Jerry's or Theo. They will satisfy your sweet tooth and are Fair-Trade guaranteed.

Nike

Nike has REALLY cleaned up their act in the last several years, but with a standard of no slave labor, they still have quite a way to go. In 1992, activist Jeff Ballinger published an exposé in "Harpers" that revealed the story of a child in Indonesia working in disgusting conditions, and for a mere 14 cents per hour (far below the minimum wage in Indonesia at the time).

Since then, Nike has begun to report supply chain information. The most recent report claims that, in 2016, only 86% of their factories were up to the minimum standards they set. Though they give a good indication of how far the company has come, these standards are set by Nike and assessed internally, making it difficult to compare standards to a universal one.

INSTEAD: shop at Patagonia! All products here are Fair Trade Certified!

Starbucks

Starbucks claims a mission for ethical sourcing, meaning their company policy requires them to abide by a standard of "ethical sourcing" that they have created. They only have two Fair-Trade coffees available for purchase. After the development charity Oxfam reported that Starbucks was depriving Ethiopian coffee growers of $90 million every year, Starbucks was challenged by the public eye to “clean up their act,” and did so by creating their own “ethical sourcing” standards, that they implement themselves, and certify 99% of their coffee with. Whether or not these standards are viable, they are not Fair Trade Certified at this time.

The U.S. Department of Labor has a list of locations and goods that use forced and child labor. Starbucks lists coffees from countries such as Guatamala, Kenya, Costa Rica and Panama; however, none of these single-sourced coffees are certified by them as “Fair Trade.” Rather, they are all regions that are known to use child labor.

INSTEAD: buy the Starbucks Italian Roast and Café Estima; they are certified by Fair Trade! You can also order online from Café Justo, Jurang and Equal Exchange —entire companies dedicated to producing Fair Trade coffee.

H&M

A 2016 report stated that as of December 31, 2015, 31 out of 72 H&M suppliers were using illegal contracts. In other words, these contracts allowed for wrongful termination. Now I know what you are thinking: the current system of hiring/firing in the U.S. is full of problems, and it takes way too much work to fire a bad employee in most cases. Well, the situation in countries like Cambodia and India are a little different. Often times, employees of H&M will be forced to work for excessive overtime hours—far beyond the legal limit—with no increase in their weekly take home pay. They are also often working in sweatshop conditions, with no breaks and unsanitary environments. Moreover, the contracts allow the factory to fire a worker for refusing to work these long hours. In fact, a garment worker in Cambodia stated: "We often get sick around once a month. We don’t eat enough and work too much trying to maximize the piece rate. Also, we don’t stop to go to the bathroom. We often work through lunch breaks or go back into work early, so there is hardly any time to rest."

INSTEAD: shop at one of these other retailers that are guaranteed to have fair-trade labor!

Walmart

Well, this one is probably the least suprising yet. According to a 2016 report by the Wage Alliance on Walmart's value chain, Walmart refused to sign the 2013 Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh that 200 companies signed following the collapse of Rana Plaza. It also stated that all 14 factories in Cambodia were studied, and they all violated local overtime laws consistently, with some forcing 14 hour work days without overtime pay "in sweltering heat, without adequate supply of clean drinking water or any breaks." These same conditions were expressed by workers in factories in India, Indonesia, and Bangladesh. The report continued to list countless instances of workers given severely less than they were promised, or even cases where owners of factories fled without paying workers at all.

INSTEAD: OK, I know it's hard to pass up Walmart prices. However, here is a full list of companies that are fair trade. Even if you start small, I know you can find a way to cut back on your slavery footprint! Want to know how many slaves work for you now? Visit the Slavery Footprint mission to find out.

*I use the term “fair wage” because many people who are enslaved are trapped in a cycle of debt bondage. This means that an individual or family works for pennies per hour to pay off an ever-increasing debt. Oftentimes this debt is passed down for generations. To learn more about debt bondage and other forms of slavery, visit the non-profit End Slavery Now, here.

Cover Image Credit: iragelb / Flickr

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The Reason Why Everyone Needs To Stop Shopping At Forever21

The secret behind the low prices in fast-fashion has a hidden dark side in manufacturing.

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We all know the brand; the blinding traffic-light-yellow bags with the black font that takes over every mall. We know Forever21 for its trendy crop tops, it's $3.90 leggings, the cheap band shirts, and basics. What we don't know, however, is how they can keep their prices so low.

Fast Fashion has long been abusive to the use of underpaid labor in manufacturing facilities, and Forever21 is no exception.

By listing themselves as a retailer, Forver21 avoids responsibility for unethical practices in their manufacturing processes. They outsource manufacturing to companies who underpay their workers and provide poor working conditions, and not just around the world. There are manufacturing facilities as close as Los Angeles. Forever21's "Social Responsibility" page boasts about recycling plastic bags and collecting donations, as well as donating clothing of their own to those in need. However, the section on manufacturing falls farther down on the page.

The section opens with the statement that Forever21 "care[s] for [their] employees and for the employees of hundreds of vendor manufacturing facilities that we work with throughout the world. [They] want all of these employees to work in safe and healthy environments." Yet, the statement does not provide any promise or commitment to doing so.

According to the Los Angeles Times, "manufacturers say that no matter how tightly retailers squeeze their margins or how frequently the state penalizes them for contractors' unpaid wages, many can't turn down a buyer with the budget and scale of Forever 21."

According to Goodonyou.eco, Forever21 is "one of the only fast fashion brands to still refuse to sign the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety – a legally binding agreement which requires brands to ensure safe working conditions in supplier factories." The agreement works to monitor remediation, ensure safety inspections, and facilitate factory inspections. The same article also claims that "they've also made no significant progress towards paying employees across their supply chain with a living wage". The Los Angeles Times claims that in an investigation of 77 Los Angeles garment factories from April through July of 2016, it was discovered that workers "were paid as little as $4 and an average of $7 an hour for 10-hour days spent sewing clothes for Forever 21" and other fast fashion brands.

The question is, why don't we talk about this more often? What if we really considered how the price of one item can stretch down the supply chain. Would it make us reconsider purchases we make? Would we be willing to spend more money on clothes to know that the people who make them are earning a sufficient wage?

To be the generation who makes a 180-degree shift is going to be challenging, but it doesn't have to be all or nothing. The next time you're thinking about buying something new, try the thrift shop or borrow from a friend instead of buying something new and cheap at the mall. You'll be doing more than yourself a favor.

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