Foundation for Change

My History and take on equitable compensation

I will never forget my first job in the food industry. Looking back it definitely set the stage for where I am now and where I am going. I was young, 14 hustling for a cell phone so I can stay relevant my sophomore year of highschool.  9/11 had happened just a year or so prior, Jnco jeans were hot and a friends 96’ Chevrolet Baretta, red of course, was the coolest car we were all waiting to drive. I later bought that car from him, and it was glorious! As such, I needed to stack paper, get some cash and make my dreams come true. And so I picked up a little side hustle washing dishes and slinging pizzas at a friend of a friend of a friends place that was walking distance to the house. It wasn’t much but it paid a minimum wage of $5.25. What I later came to find out was the value of the dollar. Busting my ass was the new name of the game… the pain was real, the ridicule was constant and the hazing seemed to never end. That’s how it goes when you get your first job in the food industry. You’re the dish bitch. You clean the grease trap, floor drains, walk ins and low-boys. No thank you, no tips, just more hazing. But you learn to love it, as for me, I had to love it. Growing up lower middle-class, if I wanted something, I had to work for it. And I thank my mom for it all the time. She set the standard for me… but that is a story that I WILL tell at another time. Having spent a year or so gaining credible yet illegal work history in order to gain actual legal work, I immediately realized the value of a dollar. And this lower wage bracket is (and continues to be) inherent to the food service industry. Hard work and low wage are part of, “paying your dues” do to speak. The intangible benefits indeed supersede the cash reward.


City Roasters - Chicago is now partnering with FAIR TRADE CERTIFIED


Due to these experiences, wage equality, quality of life and living mean a lot to me. Knowing how it was to make a way for myself in a highly competitive industry is a game I comprehend and have played for many years. These are only some of the reasons as to why I have chosen to  incorporate into the foundation of City Roasters – Chicago the principles and tactics found within the Fairtrade international protocol. From day one I have decided to purchase only fair trader certified coffee, because of the positive impact it has on the specialty coffee community. This will apply to the majority of our offerings. And it is my pleasure and honor to do so.

What is Fairtrade?

FAIRTRADE CERTIFIED is a fairtrade labelling organization (FLO) that certifies equitable pay and trade throughout specific product supply chains. This is the key that solves the pay gap between larger and smaller coffee plantations and growers. They also have special pet programs that reinvest in the smaller communities to aid in production and quality of life while diminishing poverty. When consumer manufacturers (what my goal is) carry the FAIRTRADE CERTIFIED mark it means that we have met the standards set forth by FAIRTRADE Certified. It is essentially an added cost that we pay the growers to aid in their product and process resolution and ending poverty in which these growers tend to live in. A great cause that resonates with me on a personal level. 

With that being said, I never lived in true poverty. I never worked in slave labor. I never struggled like many of these growers do. BUT, I do know what it feels like to not get paid what your labor was worth. And for those reasons, City Roasters - Chicago will incorporate FAIRTRADE standards into our company, as well as other socially responsible programs (currently looking into Certified B-Corp...more on that later).  

What it means to me to start the business 100% FAIRTRADE

That being said, when an employer offers a fair and equitable wage the employee ultimately will provide fair end equitable work. Higher quality for a bit more consideration from the employer. Quality is in my wheelhouse. It has been in every job I've had. Quality is in the nature of City Roasters - Chicago. It is our bedrock. This is also why we have chosen to purchase a high quality FAIRTRADE product(s) from the onset and before the first sale. Fairtrade will be woven into the bedrock of the company, as will the quality it espouses.

Close out: honor and pleasure

It’s a calling to make the conscious choice to grow a company utilizing a majority share of FAIRTRADE coffee. Some would herald that its limiting, restrictive, detrimental to the bottom line. Perhaps even bring into question the distribution of these dollars to the actual growers. Ultimately, Fairtrade international has their shit together. And, their sponsorship continues to grow, opening up a wider variety of coffees every season. For me and my house, we choose to take care of our community and support those whom grow an amazing high quality product for us to transform for you; our end user consumer. That being said, it is only natural for City Roasters – Chicago to want to go this route and to support our international community, and create a more stable, well compensated and ultimately happier supply chain.