Monday, September 7, 2009

What is the Connection between Labor Day and Chocolate?

Sisters and Brothers, today in the USA is Labor Day. According to the US Department of labor website, "Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country." Bermuda and Canada also celebrate Labor Day on the first Monday of September. Labor Days are celebrated in many countries around the world on different dates. Many countries mark May 1, May Day, as a labor holiday though it has become a political event in some locations while in other nations it is national holiday. Just like in the USA, nations mark other days on the calendar as "Labor Days" and this varies widely.

Your Chocolate Priestess grew up in a household where their standard of living was protected by her father being a union worker. As a trained historian, I can say for certain that most of the benefits and protections employees have today are the byproducts of the labor movement beginning in the 19th century. That you can have a weekend at all is thanks to a union, that you can be asked to work only 8 hours a day and get overtime if you work more is thanks to a union. The fact that these issues are often now part of the legal code of a nation is thanks to unions and their supporters not the kindness of employers and government officials.

But what does all this have to do with chocolate you are asking yourselves.

A great deal.

As you may recall if you read The Chocolate Cult regularly, I do not only talk about various chocolate products but other issues and events related to chocolate and cocoa. One of these is something called Fair Trade. To put it simply, Fair Trade focuses on what workers are paid, their health care, and often agricultural production. It is an attempt to help workers move beyond the poverty level by giving them better wages and benefits.

This is important to The Chocolate Cult in two ways.

First, a better treated worker will treat his job more seriously and thus the products of his labor will be of higher quality. Higher quality cacao equals higher quality cocoa and higher quality chocolate. Since you are going to be spending your wages on the product, don't you want the best possible quality?

Secondly, and more importantly for us, Sisters and Brothers, is that treating others fairly, helping them move above poverty, is part of good spiritual practice. Most of the world's religions state that a believer will treat other fairly, help the sick, help the poor, and consider her actions to be a reflection of how she believes she should and wants to be treated. When you treat another human being well, you are valuing them as a creation of the Divine just as you are the Divine's creation.

A desire to treat workers fairly is a very important consideration if you are truly on this Path with Chocolate. I am in no way saying that you should give up taste and your own financial concerns, but you must weigh all these considerations when you purchase the Sacred Substance. To ignore the issue of Fair Trade or worse yet go out of your way to actively oppose such practices is to be selfish and selfishness is never part of the Path toward the Divine.

To learn more about Labor Day in the USA, check out this website. If you want to learn more about Fair Trade, check here and here. To find places you can shop with Fair Trade considerations check here here or here.

Sisters and Brothers, may you too take the time to slowly appreciate what the Divine and human ingenuity have offered you in chocolate.

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