Putting My Values to the Test – Making it a Union Halloween

halloween-kidsWhen the phone rang late this afternoon, I could see it was my daughter calling. “Mom, don’t forget to pick up some Halloween candy on your way home!” I felt a sudden flush of anxiety. That same phone call a few weeks ago would have been a no-brainer. Stop at any grocery store and pick up a bag of whatever generic Halloween candy was on special. But now that I was doing the Union Challenge it wasn’t going to be so easy. What do I buy? Is there even any union-made candy? And where can I buy them?


I took a deep breath. I figured the Vons (UFCW) on my way home was a good place to start. I pulled into the parking lot, thinking of all the adorable trick-or-treaters that swarm across my block every Halloween, worried about what I could offer them this year that was union-made. But as I approached the candy aisle, my list from www.lalabor411.org in hand, I quickly realized this wasn’t going to be a difficult challenge at all. Taking a quick glance at the list, I found that both the United Food & Commercial Workers and the Bakery, Confectionary, Tobacco Workers  (BCTGM) produce a lot of popular national brands candies and cookies.


Here are some:


  • Abba-Zaba Bar                      
  • Baby Ruth                              
  • Black & Red Licorice Vines
  • Boston Baked Beans (the candy!)          
  • Butterfinger                          
  • Carmello Bar
  • Chips Ahoy!                           
  • Clark Bar                                 
  • Crunch N’ Munch
  • Dolly Madison                       
  • Fifth Avenue Chocolate Bar  
  • Fig Newtons
  • Ghiradelli Chocolates                          
  • Godiva Chocolates                
  • Hot Tamales                           
  • Hershey Chocolate    
  • Hostess Products                   
  • Jawbreakers                            
  • Jelly Bellies
  • Jolly Ranchers                        
  • Malted Milk Balls                  
  • Mike and Ike’s                       
  • Nutter Butter                         
  • Oreo’s                                     
  • Russell Stover Candy
  • See’s Candy                           
  • Snackwells                             
  • Tootsie Rolls
  • York Peppermint Patties        
  • Zagnut

halloween-candyLooking over ALL these choices, I suddenly realized I had the luxury of deciding, “What should I buy?” In that moment, I realized that I was used to being a mindless consumer zombie when shopping. I’m sure I had contributed to companies that didn’t care about their workers or the communities where their factories were located, or worse yet, had even inadvertently supported companies guilty of human rights abuses at their factories overseas.


But not today. Today I was making thoughtful choices. Looking over all these choices of candy, I thought about my fellow union brothers and sisters who had made them, a lot of whom worked long hours to support their families, and who cared about the American Dream and a better life for their children. I also knew how important these buying decisions can be because Halloween sales can make or break a candy manufacturer’s balance sheet. And that profitability means whether or not they can hire more workers or extend workers hours… or have to cut them.


And as I dropped oversized bags of Tootsie Rolls and mini-Butterfingers bars and Mike and Ike’s candies into my basket I felt the warmth of knowing I was making a choice that in some small way was support a greater cause that I care about. It was the warm empowerment of choosing to do something good instead of just reacting to what was available to me. I was waking up from my zombie slumber.


I raised my fist in the air and chuckled, “Cherri Senders — union Consumerista!”I got me a few odd looks, but, hey, if you can’t have a little fun every once in a while, what’s the point, right? In any case, it’s one small victory and I might as well enjoy it.


Pulling into my driveway, my daughter met me at the car. “Mom! What did you get?” It’s funny how something as simple as candy brings out that innocent enthusiasm, even in jaded teenage girls. It’s just a wonderful mystery. Next week we’ll have little ghosts and goblins banging on the door and chiming “TRICK OR TREAT!” and my husband and I will feign terror as we drop handfuls of Tootsie Rolls and Butterfingers in their bags. It’s all silly, but it’s good fun. It’s community.


And these kids won’t know it, but I will. I’ll know that this silly fun helps keep fellow Americans in jobs where they have protections and safety… That knowledge makes me feel good… because it should.

Putting My Values to the Test - A Night on the Town

kodak3At our house Thursday night is date night. I’ve been married for more than 20 years and we’ve managed to keep it together with a lot of hard work and a little bit of regular excitement. Well, date night can’t get in the way of my Buy Union! challenge, so we’re going to have to figure this out.

To be honest with you, my husband hasn’t jumped on board with the Buy Union! challenge. He’s a scientist and I’m an activist. We have different priorities, but we respect and support each other on those things that matter to us. So, last night—date night—when I informed him we had to make it a “union night,” he was agreeable.

Putting My Values to the Test - Shopping for Union Groceries

grocery_store-3I have to admit that despite all my cheerleading on this blog that I’ve been a bit nervous about starting my buy union challenge. I’ve been a labor activist for 20 years now and I’m extremely busy… but I also have a life outside of the movement. I’m a mother of two girls, still married and with what little time I have outside of work, I like to spend that with my family and (do my best to) relax.Not always an easy feat.

I AM UNION - Deborah Riley - Art Director

Deborah RileyEver since I could hold a pencil, I would draw and draw and draw. I was born in Australia and I spent my early childhood dreaming of becoming an animator. My parents encouraged me, and I collected every book on the art of animation and cartooning available. Even then, creating a world in order to tell a story appealed to me. Although I did not grow up to work in animation, creating the scenery for filmmaking has been the driving force of my professional life.

Putting My Values to the Test--Today I Begin the Buy Union! Challenge


It looks like it’s time to switch from Ivory to Dove soap, Crest to Colgate, and from Godiva to See’s chocolates. Union brands first!

I’ve spent the last 20 years of my life as an activist in LA’s union community and I’ve never seen times as rough as this for our members and for working class families in general. All of the pain I’m seeing around me has got me thinking… a lot.

Did you know that 70% of the American economy is generated by consumer spending? That’s huge! This means that collectively how we, as average citizens, spend our money -- more than government or corporate spending -- is shaping the economy of the United States. And it’s not been a case of whether or not we’ve been spending (oh, we’ve been spending, believe you me!) it’s a matter of how we spend our money. As I look around my house, my garage, and my cupboards I realize that we have been spending our money frivolously on things produced in foreign countries. In the end, no good can come of it.

I AM UNION! - Don Sparks - Pierce College Professor

Don SparksI first came to California from Cleveland, Ohio to study at Humboldt State in 1969 and I never left. Even in high school I knew I wanted to be an educator but I also cared about nature and natural resources. In fact, even at my age I still love to get out into nature. Skiing, hiking, biking and tumbling are all big hobbies of mine. There’s nothing quite like the feeling on being on the side of a mountain after a snowfall and just listening to the silence, feeling the magnitude of it all.

Putting My Values to the Test--Changing the World...$1 at a Time


Now that I’ve shared my experiences about buying my first union-made car on this blog –  how easy and difficult a journey it was buying my Ford Escape   – it’s time to introduce myself, for those of you who don’t know me or my what we do here at Senders Communications Group. I’ve been a union activist for almost 20 years now. My company – including my crew of reporters, photographers and graphic designers -  has been fighting the good fight in favor of union-based political and social causes for more than 16 years now. I can’t tell you how many hundreds of stories, campaigns and elections we’ve done over the years. It’s been an invigorating, wonderful and sometimes frustrating journey in so many different ways. You take your victories where you can get them.

I AM UNION! - Hannah Cooper - IBEW Electrician

hannah_cooper.jpgI was born here in Los Angeles, but I’ve spent a large part of my life traveling. Travelling is probably my greatest passion in life. I love experiencing new cultures and the way they look at life. It broadens a person’s mind at the same time reminds you of all the things that are special about the place you call “home.” And the food! I love experiencing new cultures through their food and art.

I’ve travelled to Australia, France, Ireland, Scotland, the Netherlands, Israel, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Singapore, Malaysia, England and Canada and I hope to see more! Actually, one of the greatest attractions to becoming a union electrician was the flexibility it provides between jobs. It allows me to do what I love:  Electrical work and travel. 

Most people when they meet me they’re surprised that I’m an electrician. They ask me “Do you like it?” I tell them, “I LOVE IT!” And often they reply, “I don’t even remember the last person who said, ‘I love what I do.’”

But I do. I love being an electrician. Actually my mother was the first female electrician in Los Angeles in the IBEW. My father was a producer growing up, but mother had the most consistent work and often carried the household. I use to train to be a dancer, but when I got older I looked at my options and saw that the apprenticeship program with the IBEW was the best fit for me.

I’m a junkie for knowledge. I love to learn and after two years in the apprenticeship program the big scope of electricity and how it works in our lives really makes sense. My knowledge is constantly developing. The broad scope of practical knowledge is acquired in electricity and construction has really boosted my self-confidence.

I’m proud of being a union electrician. A lot of my friends don’t have any practical knowledge and I find what I’ve learned has really grounded me. It’s been freeing. I love to work with my hands. There’s a sense of strength that comes through working hard on a project and when you’re done the lights come on and you can say, “I did that. I built this.” It feels good. The self-sufficiency is amazing.

There is an inherent sense of pride that comes from being in this trade and the skills I’ve developed just want me to take on more skills and broaden what I can do.

My name is Hannah Cooper... and I AM UNION!

Putting My Values to the Test - Buying My First Union Car - And the Winner Is....

After being disappointed that the Ford Fusion wasn't union-built, I turned my attention to Ford union-made SUVs. I am a working mom with two daughters after all. There's a lot of practicality to having a roomier, but safe vehicle that I can haul around bicycles and home improvement materials in.

I first looked at the Ford Explorer, but like the Jeep Grand Cherokee  it was just too much car for me. I must say, I was really attracted to the Ford Edge, but again, disappointment -- it wasn't union-made.

And then I sat down in the newest love of my life... the Ford Escape. It was just perfect:  A nice sturdy, luxurious SUV that didn't feel like a tank, but was still roomy and gave me great view of the road. I have to admit I'm a bit shallow when it comes to cars; looks matter. The lines of the Escape and plush leather interior of it went a long way for me.

This time I made sure I had a salesman who really knew his stuff. He promised me he would find a union-built car -- even down to a particular assembly line if I needed it. Impressive.

Before I even turned the ignition he explained the Escape's computer system for 30 full minutes. Basically, the car is an android. It does practically everything except do your taxes for you. You can talk to it and it'll provide almost any information you want whether it's traffic, news, directions, business searches... it'll even read your phone's texts to you aloud! Wow.

It was a bit overwhelming and finally I had to ask, "Ummm... are we actually going to take the car out for a test drive?" But finally I got to the big event:  taking the car out on the road. After getting my hopes up before with the Fusion, it was a relief to put the Escape in drive and not be disappointed. It felt solid. The ride was smooth. It handled nicely. I loved the view -- being high up above it all as I drove.

Despite me trying to stay aloof, my astute salesman could sense my growing excitement. He said, "Let me show you something really cool." We found a parking spot on the street between two cars, he pushed a couple of buttons and told me to take my hands off the  wheel. Right. But I did and the car parallel parked itself!  I screamed as the wheel turned on its own and the Escape slid perfectly into the parking space. Wow. What's next? Cars that I can take a nap in while it drives me home and then tucks me into bed?

I really like the car, but I had one last problem. The way the UAW site lists its union made cars, it was confusing whether only the Hybrid qualified as union-made. I love the environment and I want a hybrid vehicle, but the Escape Hybrid costs $5,000 more than the regular Escape. Let's be honest. $5,000 can buy a lot of gas and times are tough. Arrrgggh. I don't know if my family can afford this.

Luckily for me, being a union activist for almost 20 years now, you get to know people. I called up my UAW buddy and he assured me that both the Hybrid and the regular Escape were both kosher -- they rolled off the assembly line in Kansas City, Mo. In fact, the Ford Escape has one of the highest percentage of American made parts of any new car available today.  Whew. Thank goodness! I finally found my union-made car:  The Ford Escape.

It's been a week now and I'm still delighted with my decision. I've learned from my shopping experience that making the right decision when buying isn't always easy. I mean, how many people have a UAW leader on speed dial on their phone?

If we're going to turn things around in this country, we're going to have to make things a lot easier for a shopper to know what they're buying. It's the only thing that makes sense. I know that's what we are doing at LA Labor 411, but the movement has to expand. We need companies, unions, and citizens coming together if we're going to make a difference.

Next week - next steps in my union buying adventure.

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