Maria Louzon served as the National Coordinator for United Students for Fair Trade (USFT). Recently graduated from the University of Maryland, Maria’s leadership with planning convergences and establishing networks ensured the student voice was heard in the fair trade movement. She also worked with raising awareness about fair trade in high school, continuing on her college campus. Working with Catholic Relief Services and Fair for Life / IMO influenced her passion, and all these experiences will inform her next steps.
Ethix: Why did you become passionate about the fair trade movement, and how did you end up in a leadership position for United Students for Fair Trade?
Maria Louzon: I attended Justice Action Week the summer of 2006 in Baltimore, MD, (JAW is a social justice immersion program sponsored by the Archdiocese of Baltimore), where I visited Catholic Relief Services and first learned about fair trade. I thought it was really cool how you could think globally while acting locally, and the stories of farmers suffering from unfair wages really struck me– I never thought something like this would happen in the modern world!
I attended John Carroll University from 2009-2010, and while there, I was a CRS Fair Trade Intern. My advisor, Chris Kerr, sent me an email about openings in the USFT Coordinating Committee and I applied… just for kicks and giggles… but I wound up being elected! I was chosen to be the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic Regional Coordinator from 2010-2011, and then in 2011 I was “promoted” to a National Coordinator position, where I have been since!
Ethix: It’s been quite a year for USFT- what were some of your favorite moments?
Maria Louzon: Some of my favorite moments include:
- Training the new Coordinating Committee in NYC last summer
- Hosting a networking series throughout major cities on the East Coast — we met a lot of really inspirational students!
- Attending countless conferences
- Traveling to the Dominican Republic for a Trade Justice Immersion Trip
- Planning and having our National Convergence at the University of Maryland
- Being a part of the North American Fair Trade Stakeholder Council
- Signing an memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Fair World Project (FWP), making FWP’s fiscal sponsorship of USFT a sealed deal!!
Ethix: We were thrilled to see students release the USFT Fair Trade USA Statement last fall. Can you please describe what motivated this action? Has anything resulted from the stand you took?
Maria Louzon: We were extremely frustrated that Fair Trade USA (previously Transfair USA) was not listening to us — we had been asking them questions for months concerning their certification standards and then they released their new standards stating that they consulted all of their stakeholders… when they never even consulted us — the students! We received many letters of support, and as a result, we have been able to work with other organizations and businesses to return fair trade to its authentic roots!
Ethix: Your USFT Statement seems to be a reflection of the broader tension between Fair Trade USA and the fair trade movement. What do you think the movement’s next steps should be?
Maria Louzon: Right now, the North American Fair Trade Stakeholder Council is doing some great work to answer this question. USFT is a member to this Council and fully supports and endorses all of their work. Anyone interested in this should stay informed about these recommendations.
Ethix: What’s in store for USFT students? Are you planning any cool upcoming events or campaigns?
Maria Louzon: We are focusing on promoting Alta Gracia, a living wage union-made apparel company, on our affiliate campuses. Plus, we are planning some cool networking events for this summer, so stay tuned!
We look forward to your thoughts. You can also download the entire interview here.