You work hard for your money, so why hand it over to businesses that don’t support public education or basic worker rights like union organization, fair pay, and adequate health care coverage? Or companies that fund politicians who oppose rights like these that create better working and living conditions for educators and students?

In many cases, there’s a concrete connection between where a teacher buys his fishing waders and whether his money ends up working for him or against him, says Michael Edwards, director of Labor Outreach for NEA. When someone buys union-made products or hires a unionized service, she “supports the concept of a strong union movement, encourages employers to act fairly and responsibly, and promotes the rights and well-being of America’s working families.”

While no company is likely perfect, the key is to be as informed and purposeful a customer as possible. Scott Maney, a seventh-grade social studies teacher in Springboro, Ohio, buys his groceries at the union-staffed Kroger, drives a union-made Ford Explorer, and ships packages through the unionized U.S. Postal Service or UPS. Just think: One out of every 100 Americans is an NEA member. If more educators spent like Maney, it could have an enormous effect.

Edwards also encourages writing to company officials—whether CEOs of big corporations or managers of local stores—to explain the pro-union and pro-public education motivation for their shopping. “You’d be surprised how such comments can bolster good practices and move even a very large enterprise in the right direction,” he says.

Where to Shop, What to Buy—A Sampler

Here are some labor-friendly businesses and union-made products you can buy with confidence. Each category contains only a sampling—head to magazine to find links to comprehensive lists compiled by watchdog groups and labor associations for an even wider range of products and services.

Spending Smart



Some quality textile products are made in the USA.

Mundelein teacher Chris Michalides did some research on textile companies that can provide products that union members can wear proudly.

Bearse USA is a third-generation family company that specializes in bags, totes, and other durable goods. Can also produce clothing. The company recognizes the unfair advantage sweatshop labor has in the marketplace and the importance of domestic employment within our borders. Based in Chicago. –

Apex Mills dates back 70 years and has remained here in the USA. The company is based in New York and produces their textiles in North Carolina. Apex offers a much more customizable product. –

Additional resources

UAW-made vehicles

AFSCME list of union-friendly businesses

Retail Offenders