Why should you buy union? As plenty of union members know, just because an employer is union doesn’t mean it’s a model citizen. There are some very good union employers, and there also are union employers who’d become nonunion in an instant if they could figure out a way. But buying union isn’t about rewarding union employers; it’s about supporting fellow union members. It’s about voting with your dollars to support enterprises that pay fellow workers a living wage with benefits — enterprises that set an industry standard that raises conditions for workers overall, or at least where employees have a voice, can’t be fired without cause, and can bargain over wages and working conditions.
This year, the AFL-CIO is encouraging union members to look for union-made goods and services when they buy for the holiday season, and has designated the 10 days following Thanksgiving — Nov. 26 to Dec. 5 — as Buy Union Week.
To make that easier, the Northwest Labor Press has come up with 10 gift ideas that will help union members put presents under their fellow union members’ trees when they buy.
- Hiking boots by Danner are top-quality and will last a lifetime. Check the label: If it’s U.S. made, it’s manufactured in Oregon by members of United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 555. And you can buy them at the new Danner outlet store on 12021 NE Airport Way in Portland.
- Tillamook cheeses make a fine gift basket item, and are made by Operating Engineers and Teamsters at the Tillamook County Creamery.
- Tickets to the Oregon Symphony keep members of American Federation of Musicians Local 99 employed. And this year, they have three holiday concert offerings at Portland’s Arlene Schnitzer concert hall: Gospel Christmas, Handel’s Messiah, and Comfort and Joy.
- A Browning hunting rifle, made by union Machinists, could hit the target for big game hunters in the family. Gerber hunting and fishing knives are also union made in Tigard by Machinists members.
- Books and gifts at Powell’s Books — online and at five Portland-area locations — are stocked, shipped, and sold by members of International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 5.
- Chocolates at See’s Candies and Ghirardelli are union-made by members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco and Grain Millers in California.
- What gift is better than money? Gift cards purchased at your favorite union grocer will find their way into the paychecks of UFCW members.
- Fiesta ceramic dinnerware, colorful, lead-free and long-lasting, is made in West Virginia by members of Glass, Molders, Pottery International Union.
- Blankets under the Pendleton Woolen Mills label are made in Oregon and Washington by members of Workers United (formerly UNITE HERE) Local 118 and 1108-T.
- Columbia Crest wine, which last year won Wine Spectator magazine’s “Wine of the Year” for its 2005 cabernet, is part of the Chateau Ste. Michelle winery, which employs members of United Farm Workers and Teamsters Local 117 in Washington state.
This list isn’t meant to be comprehensive. If you think we’ve left a good gift idea off the list, let us know. Here is a list of Web sites that promote union-made and American made products.
- Union Label & Service Trades, AFL-CIO
- Union House Apparel
- How to Buy American
- Made in USA
- Buy American.com
- All American Clothing Co.
- Union Made Clothing
- Pointer Brand
Last but not least:
- If you’re going to mail a present to a far-away relative, do it via solid-union United States Postal Service or UPS, not FedEx, which is entirely nonunion.
- And if the house is too full to accommodate out-of-town visitors, put them up at theHilton, Benson, or Paramount hotel in downtown Portland, where workers are represented by UNITE HERE Local 9. These first-class hotels may not be as expensive as you think: Rooms start at $95, $109, and $119, respectively.