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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