Canyon Crest Academy students campaign for international human rights
From their North County campus, a group of San Diego high school students is fighting for human rights around the world.
The COVID-19 pandemic shortage of products not only exposed failures in the international supply chain but also alleged human rights abuses of foreign workers. The abuses are alleged against American companies doing business in third-world countries along with partners they work with.
Students at Canyon Crest Academy in Carmel Valley formed a Fair Trade Club and drafted an amendment to U.S. law that would allow many more victims of abuse to sue companies in a U.S. court.
“Every dollar you have is like a choice and with everything you buy you choose to support human rights or you support the process we have in place that uses child labor and human trafficking,” said Sarah Strasberg the Fair Trade Club’s president. She is a senior this year.
Strasberg started her campaign for justice in late 2020.
She recruited some of her classmates to join her in finding solutions to the ongoing problem.
“I didn’t really know what fair trade was,” said Joyce Lin who is also a Canyon Crest Academy senior and communications director for the club. “I had only seen the fair trade stickers on some products at the grocery store.”
But Lin quickly joined Strasberg and some other friends in educating themselves on the Alien Tort Statute, the law that already exists that gives federal courts power to rule on certain lawsuits filed by foreigners allegedly international law violations by American companies.
“There are these workers in a lot of third world countries way less privileged than us,” Lin said, “Sometimes they get taken advantage of. That really touched my heart and I wanted to spread awareness about it.”
Canyon Crest Academy students display the fair trade logo during a meeting on campus, Carmel Valley, Calif. on January 28, 2022.
The club collected several more student members and then researched and wrote an amendment to the Alien Tort Statute that broadens the rights and recourse of foreign workers.
“Our amendment would help clean up the gray area and allow for more ethical results when someone sues a company for human rights abuses,” said Kait Podlich, a junior with the group.
U.S. Representative Scott Peters, D-San Diego, met with the students in late June to discuss their cause and the amendment.
“It has an uphill climb like all bills in the Senate," said Peters. "But, it’s a great point of advocacy to stand up for these workers around the world and folks that have been disadvantaged.”
Whether the amendment makes it for consideration by Congress, it has already provided important lessons for high school students.
“I learned how to have a voice. I used to be a pretty shy person,” said Kloe Godard, a club member. “I have been able to see that it’s always right for me to stand for what I believe in and to enforce justice any way that I can.”