How to buy union this holiday season

Plan to buy any gifts this year? If you buy union, you’re helping keep good jobs in the community, and voting with your dollars for enterprises that pay your fellow workers a living wage with benefits. 

UNION-MADE

Union-made can be hard to find these days. Here are some ideas to make it easier.

  • Blankets: Give the gift of warmth with a blanket from Pendleton Woolen Mills. Pendleton blankets (but not apparel) are made in Washougal, Washington, and Pendleton, Oregon. You can see how they’re made with free tours at both locations, where members of the Workers United union earn wages of $15.42 to $17.73 an hour, plus overtime after eight hours, and health and pension benefits.
  • Boots: Danner today is a subsidiary of Japanese shoe company ABC-Mart, but still makes about half of its products at its Northeast Portland factory, where workers are represented by UFCW Local 555. Check the label: If the boots are U.S.-made, they were made here with union labor.
  • Kitchenware: Foreign imports may fill the shelves, but union-made in America is still a mark of quality for several brands. U.S.-made Pyrex glassware and All-Clad Stainless Steel Cookware are made by United Steelworkers members in Pennsylvania. And U.S.-made Fiesta brand dinnerware is made in West Virginia by members of the Glass, Molders, Pottery, Plastic and Allied Workers union.
  • Culture: Oregon Ballet Theater, Portland Opera, the Oregon Symphony: All of them employ members of American Federation of Musicians Local 99,  IATSE Local 28  crews, and IATSE Local B-20 members, who work as ushers, ticket takers and elevator operators. The biggest employer of union musicians is the Oregon Symphony, with 76 full-timers. Session players earn $200 per two-hour appearance, plus pension and healthcare contributions.
  • Chocolate: Ghirardelli chocolates and See’s Candies gift boxes are made in California by members of Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco and Grain Millers.
  • Wine: Unions are rare in the wine industry, but Washington’s award-winning Chateau Ste. Michelle is an exception. It employs members of United Farm Workers in its vineyards, and members of Teamsters Local 117 in the barrel room, warehouse, production, shipping and maintenance departments at its Woodinville facility. Company labels include Columbia Crest, Chateau Ste. Michelle wines, Domaine Ste. Michelle, and Snoqualmie, and others.

UNION-SOLD

Shop Fred Meyer and Powell’s, not Walmart, Target and Amazon

NO, THANK YOU: Out of 5,300 Walmart stores in the United States, guess how many are unionized? Not one. That’s no accident. Walmart is one of the most ferociously anti-union companies in the world. When Walmart workers in Jonquiere, Quebec, voted in 2004 to unionize, the company closed the store. It also closed a store in Pico Rivera, California, in 2015 after many workers there took part in a strike. Target is hardly better: None of its 1,800 U.S. stores is union either, though nine pharmacy workers at a Brooklyn, NY store did unionize in 2015. At least Walmart and Target have stores; Amazon has only warehouses, and its 270,000 employees toil nonunion in conditions that have shocked the public in several widely shared exposés.

YES, PLEASE: When you buy at Fred Meyer, Portland’s only unionized general retailer, the money you spend will employ members of UFCW Local 555 (and Bakers Local 114, at Fred Meyer bakery departments). Or keep it simple and get a Fred Meyer gift card. And why shop at Amazon when you could buy books and gifts at Powell’s Books and support about 450 Portland-area members of ILWU Local 5, from cashiers to truck drivers to computer programmers. Powells pays wages that average over $14 an hour, and provides health benefits for full-time employees. And if you shop online through ilwulocal5.com, 7.5% of your purchase goes to the union strike fund.

UNION-SHIPPED

Sending cards and packages? Ship it union with USPS and UPS, and don’t patronize antiunion FedEx

U.S. Postal Service (USPS) is a publicly-owned employer that provides nearly half a million career union jobs with benefits in every community in America. UPS is the single largest employer in the Teamsters Union, with about 250,000 union-represented employees.

Not FedEx. FedEx has a history of resisting unionization. It didn’t even recognize most of its workers as employees until a few years ago. Since 2015, it has agreed to pay $468 million to settle federal class action lawsuits covering 14,000 FedEx Ground drivers in 21 states. The suits, dating back as far as 2000, were filed because FedEx illegally misclassified its drivers as independent contractors to avoid paying payroll taxes, benefits, meal and rest breaks, and overtime, and to shift the costs of fuel, maintenance, insurance, and FedEx branded trucks, uniforms, and scanners to workers. In 2011 it ended that practice; now it contracts with other businesses to employ its drivers. FedEx Freight began its first-ever union bargaining this year with two small groups of workers in Philadelphia and Charlotte, after the company exhausted all its legal appeals in the courts and was ordered to sit down with the union.

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