Two of Rhode Island’s largest unions, NEARI and the RI Federation of Teachers and Health Professionals, are launching a new Unions Buy Local campaign just prior to this Mother’s Day weekend. Shopping locally makes sense as we try to work with our neighbors to help grow our local – and state – economies.
Rhode Island union members and other working people have the real purchasing power in the state, much more so than wealthy individuals. We want to use that purchasing power to support local businesses and jobs for local workers in these businesses – and strengthen ties within our local communities.
Participation is simple – members will just pass a “union buck” whenever they spend money at a local business, dine at a local restaurant, or pay for a local service. The project will roll out in three locations next week: Thursday in Warren, Friday in South Kingstown, and Saturday in North Kingstown. More towns will be announced over the next few weeks. The campaign will continue between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.
Union members know they fight for all working people when they engage in contract fights and legislative battles on issues like increasing the minimum wage or protecting workplace safety. Too often, Big Business tries to pit Main Street businesses against the interests of organized labor. But as is becoming clearer to more Americans, the interests of Wall Street business and Main Street business are truly divergent. That’s why it is a shame that here in Rhode Island, groups like EngageRI tried to severely diminish the purchasing power of retirees and working people in general – something that will truly hurt local business.
Unions Buy Local is a positive way for the working people of Rhode Island to demonstrate to local merchants and shop owners how much teachers and public employees contribute to the local economy. As NEARI President Larry Purtill said in the latest edition of the NEARI magazine Newsline:
“If we want local business owners and workers to support us and our financial security at budget time, then we have to support theirs. Everybody wins in this campaign. We will not be asking business owners to do anything but open their doors and understand we want to help them. All we ask in return is for those who have been critical of union and public employees to stop and think before they act. There are always ramifications to every position one takes.”