Other Union Goods and Services
United Trades Exclusive
By Kate Gatto
There are a lot of different purchases you may make in your lifetime, throughout any of the categories we’ve already talked about. After all, we’ll have to get gas, and other daily errands have nothing to do with buying appliances or cars.
When it comes to these kinds of day-to-day purchases, the odds are good that not much thought is given to them. After all, what’s one dollar here, or $25 there? But the truth is that those little purchases can add up over the course the week, a month, or year. And we need to be vigilant about where we do that kind of shopping as well.
Luckily, there are a lot of sites designed to help individuals decide which shops are labor friendly, and which ones are not. Today, we are going to get you familiar with some of those resources.
While the link above will take you to a list that ranks some of the most popular retailers in the United States (from the most responsible to the least responsible), there is much more to be offered on this site. Green America offers information about food products, beauty products, and even socially responsible investing options. The site also has a blog where you can get involved with their fair trade campaigns. This is a great first step for people looking to take a more active role.
This site is (by nature) focused on food. The site however is unique, because it not only has a PDF pocket guide, but they also have an app version of their information. This allows shoppers who are looking for a bite on the go, to find out more without having to stop everything else it is they are doing. The app is available at no cost for users of both iPhone & Android.
This site is a great “go to” resource for a number of products. If you have ever stood in the grocery store wondering whether or not this coffee, cocoa, or other product you wish to buy is fair trade, then this list can help you. If you are in the middle of the mall wondering about the jacket you just saw in the window, the site can help you there too. The site also covers wines, spirits, sports equipment, and body care products.
This is one of the largest fair trade information sources on the web. And as a bonus, these products are relatively green. The site describes their mission as follows: “The Fair Trade Certified label helps you make choices, with the confidence that your product is socially and environmentally sustainable. While best known for coffee, Fair Trade Certified has grown to encompass many products, from tea, to chocolate, to body care, and wine. Choose Fair Trade products to vote with your dollars and make Every Purchase Matter.”
If you’re worried about inadvertently supporting sweatshop labor, the Global Exchange is your one-stop shop. They offer a handy PDF guide, known as the Action Guide, which helps you not only to find solid retailers, but also to get more active in the cause should you choose to.
This organization’s mission is described as follows: “The Federation envisions a just and sustainable global economy, in which purchasing and production choices are made with concern for the well-being of people and the environment. Creating a world where all people have viable economic options to meet their own needs. We seek to alleviate poverty by continually and significantly expanding a practice of trade that values the labor and dignity of all people.”
In addition to listing specific fair trade companies, the site also has a how-to guide for business owners looking to start or convert their company to fair trade ways. The site also has a nice job board for people who would like to get into fair trade in a more professional manner. The site also has a visual guide for some of the products from partner companies, so that you can see your shopping options first-hand.
Supporting Living Wages and Cost
Now that you know where to get more information about fair trade practices and companies, we have to address the elephant in the room. It is a commonly held misconception that paying workers the value of their work will create an economy where products become unaffordable for the average consumer. As it turns out, this view is incorrect.
Take for example, the case of Wal-Mart. The company has been notoriously hard on its workers. It also threatened to pull out, or stop economic development in cities that would raise the minimum wage higher than the state level.
The company’s argument has always been that this would cut into profits and make business in that area less beneficial for both themselves and consumers. A study conducted by The Labor Center at University of California at Berkley proves that assumption wrong.
That research study found, “Even if Wal-Mart were to pass 100 percent of a living wage increase on to consumers, the average impact on a Wal-Mart shopper would be quite small: 1.1 percent of prices, well below Wal-Mart’s estimated savings to consumers. This works out to $0.46 per shopping trip, or $12.49 per year, for the average consumer who spends approximately $1,187 per year at Wal-Mart. This is the most extreme estimate, as portions of the raise could be absorbed through other mechanisms, including increased productivity or lower profit margins”
As you can see, supporting living wage or fair trade is very unlikely to break the bank. Some even theorize it would stimulate our economy, as people occupying the bottom rungs of our economic ladder would be able to spend more on discretionary purchases, and rely less on government service programs.