This Mother’s Day, Say It Without Sweat Shops

U.S. flower giants are beginning to respond to criticism over abusive labor practices.

For conscious consumers, the hypocrisy is striking every Mother’s Day: those colorful blossoms given to brighten Mom’s day are most likely produced under a dark cloud of abuse that often harms female workers most. Before buying a bouquet, consider selecting a Fair Trade-designated arrangement from either FTD or 1-800 Flowers.

The U.S. Labor Education in the Americas Project reports that in Colombia and Ecuador, the two largest flower exporters to the U.S., workers earn poverty-level wages. What’s more, 55% of women workers in Ecuador have been victims of sexual harassment, and 66% of all workers suffer from work-related health problems due to handling dangerous pesticides. This exposure causes workers to experience higher rates of premature births, congenital malformations, and miscarriages. The stress heightens during the busy season, when workers can put in 70-80 hour work weeks with no overtime pay.

In February, drew a bulls-eye on 1-800-Flowers, calling for a boycott of the flower provider for Valentine’s Day due to these barbaric practices. More than 50,000 members signed a petition urging the flower giant to offer fair trade selections by Mother’s Day.

The company responded, offering six new, clearly labeled arrangements ( called for five), and three fair trade gift baskets. The “Planet Friendly Smile” prices are only slightly higher than the conventional choices. The flowers in these selections were grown and picked in accordance with fair trade criteria and are certified by Fair Trade USA.

1-800 Flowers is now reportedly working to increase its transparency and is moving towards partnering with more fair trade-governed flower farms. Customers need to encourage a full-scale operational transformation by buying these newly available selections. Consumers always have a vote by deciding where and how to spend their money. has also turned its eye on FTD, but the company needed little urging before it followed 1-800 Flowers’ lead. FTD hasn’t come as far as 1-800 Flowers yet, but they offer five fair trade arrangements and, we hope, will move toward greater transparency in sourcing soon. 1-800 Flowers and FTD are both major U.S. flower vendors, so if their lines are successful, it will set a powerful precedent.

image: Pink Sherbert Photography

Andrea Newell

Andrea Newell is a Michigan-based writer specializing in corporate social responsibility, women’s issues, and the environment.