If you’re looking for well-made products made by workers who have a voice in their working conditions and by a company that’s supportive of your community, then the union label won’t let you down. Today, just 6.4% of the workers in the private sector belong to unions, but they pack a big punch when it comes to driving the U.S. economic engine.
Check out these four reasons why the union label is the gold standard when it comes to the best value you get for your shopping dollars:
- Union label means quality: JD Power grants one car factory in the Americas the Gold Plant Quality Award to recognize the highest level of quality. In 2017, the award went to GM Fort Wayne Assembly whose workers are members of UAW Local 2209 members. Five-star hotels like the W and Loews Hollywood in Los Angeles are all union staffed. Hart Schaffner Marx, high end Filson shirts and bags are all union made. One reason why union-made often means such good quality is that the workers have a voice at work: they can discuss candidly with management ways to improve the plant without fear of retaliation. That free flow of ideas often leads to innovation and product improvement.
- Union workers create jobs for everyone: when bargaining contracts, workers often try to get their employer to invest more in their worksite. It might mean expanding a department or even building a new factory. The benefits of this flow to everyone: for every new job created in manufacturing, 3.4 new jobs are created elsewhere in the United States to support the new jobs. For example, in 2015, UAW workers used their bargaining power to demand that the Big 3 invest $22.6 billion into US plants over the life of the agreement. That wasn’t done by politicians: it was done by union workers using their power at the bargaining table. Workers without unions are hard pressed to enforce their individual rights, let alone bargain with their employers to expand the company’s footprint in their communities.
- Union contract is a great tool to fight worker exploitation: just because something is Made in the U.S.A. doesn’t mean that it is manufactured without the questionable practices that sometimes plague off-shore manufacturers. In 2016, the Department of Labor investigated 77 randomly selected garment contractors in California and found wage and hour violations in 85% of the cases. It resulted in more than $1.3 million in back wages and damages for 865 workers some of whom were earning as little as $4 an hour. Workers who form unions have collective bargaining rights that lets them bargain for better wages and working conditions. And their gains are enforced through the grievance procedure.
- Union-made products are iconic: the list of classic American products now being made off-shore is long and sobering: Craftsman tools? Mostly made in Taiwan and China since 2013. Levi’s? Though they started making jeans in the United States in 1873, you haven’t been able to buy a Made in America Levi since 2004. Huffy bikes have been made in China since 1999. Chuck Taylors are now from Indonesia. That’s part of the story. But it’s also worth noting what is still made or assembled in the USA by workers in unions: Fiestaware (GMP), Louisville Slugger (USWA), Steinway & Sons Pianos (IBB; UBC; IUE-CWA), Chevrolet Corvette (UAW), Red Wing Shoes (BSWU-UFCW; IBT). These products are iconic because they endure, and part of their lasting value comes from the fact that union hands are at work.