If someone came to your door asking for money that would ultimately be used to campaign against your friend who was seeking election, would you do so?
If someone came to your door collecting money for a group that wanted to fight unions, hoping to create huge profits for corporations and keep worker pay low, would you get your wallet out?
I know I wouldn’t, and I don’t think you would either.
However, in a way, that ‘s what many of our members do every day when they shop at stores like Walmart.
Last Spring, Walmart gave $8 million to Michelle Rhee’s group, Students First, which promotes charter schools and advocates against unions. Students First is the group that dumped hundreds of thousands of dollars into House of Representatives races last Fall against two teachers, Donna O’Connor and former State Teacher of the Year, Maureen Reedy.
Walmart does not like unions. When workers have tried to organize union representation, they have been fired. Walmart’s wages are so low that employees have to rely on government assistance for health care, free and reduced meals, and subsidized housing. In Wisconsin, $67.5 million taxpayer dollars go to Walmart workers each year — a company that makes billions and billions of dollars every year — because the workers are not paid a living wage.
When I thought about these things last week, I chose to buy school supplies at union-affiliated Meijer’s. I don’t know if Meijer’s had lower prices than Walmart. I don’t know if Meijer’s had the same selection. All I know is they support unions and I want to support my fellow union workers.
I wasn’t always this conscientious about where I shopped and the products I bought. I thought one mega store or company was the same as another. However, SB5 changed my perspective. When I saw union workers from the private sector standing on the State House lawn fighting for my rights, while my colleagues across the state were in their classrooms teaching, I felt a great deal of gratitude and I haven’t forgotten that. I vowed to buy only union-built cars: Ford, GM and Chrysler. I made sure that any printing orders I needed to fulfill were handled by shops that carried the union bug. I approached AFL-CIO leadership, requesting a list of all the business in the Toledo area that are union, so I could patronize those stores.
There are many labor battles to come. So-called Right to Work is looming. I know that, to defeat the forces that challenge our rights and the rights of the middle class, it will take all of us working together, and it’s much easier to work together when we respect the contributions of each member of the group. That means recognizing the importance of doing business at places that recognize the benefits of unions.
It’s really not that hard to do. It probably won’t take much extra time or driving. It doesn’t require canvassing neighborhoods or collecting signatures. It’s just a tiny adjustment in your shopping habits.
It’s a simple principle. Support those who support us.
By Dan Greenberg, Sylvania Education Association