Products Made by Bonded Labor - with Alternative Options

July 06, 2015 Mariah Long Opinion 
Slave Free Lifestyle, Bonded Labor

Last month, we featured products made by child labor. This month, we're spotlighting goods made using bonded labor and offer fair trade alternatives.


Bonded labor is present in many sectors of the agricultural industry, and one of those is the rice industry. Harvesting rice is backbreaking work, especially for those doing it for little to no pay. Alter Eco offers a variety of fair trade goods, including rice. Be sure to also check for a fair trade label on the rice sold at your local grocery store.

© Image from Alter Eco


According to Siddharth Kara's book, Bonded Labor, all parts of the tea supply chain are tainted with bonded labor. In the processing plants, workers are forced to work multiple eight hour shifts in a row and are only paid for one day's worth of work regardless of their hours. If they refuse the extra hours, they could lose their job. Many are so exhausted that they fall asleep on piles of tea leaves. Those that harvest the leaves don't have it any better since they're working 12-15 hour days and are being cheated out of pay when managers manipulate scale readings. Fortunately, there are a lot of fair trade options. Some of our favorites are Equal Exchange and Trade as One, but there are many other fair trade tea options out there.

© Image by Equal Exchange


The silk industry has a dark history with bonded child labor. The practice comes from the myth that children, with their nimble fingers, are the best candidates for the job. The silk we come in contact with is often in the form of scarves or other clothing items. You can find fair trade items from companies like SERRV and Holistic Silk. Be sure to ask your silk provider what the working conditions are like for those making their silk.


Silver Jewelry

The metal mining industry is riddled with forced labor, and the jewelry industry employs similar abusive practices. Fortunately, there are multiple ethical options! Making the switch to slave-free jewelry should be an easy one. Relevee jewelry is made by survivors of trafficking. NOVICA offers a wide range of fair trade silver jewelry, and pieces at Ten Thousand Villages are made by artisans all around the world. For help finding a certified jeweler, take a look at this list from Fair Gold.

© Ten Thousand Villages


Topics: Slave Free Lifestyle, Bonded Labor

About the Author

Mariah Long

Mariah was previously the Program Manager of End Slavery Now. She graduated from the University of Cincinnati's DAAP program with a degree in Digital Design.