In a global atmosphere of radioactive produce and exploitative fashion, the choices that we make as consumers speak volumes about who we are and what we stand for. However, this isn’t a strange, new concept; in fact, union-made goods could be considered the origin of conscious consumption. Long before we clamored for cage-free eggs and locally sourced kale, factories readily identified the union responsible for production of each garment. If you take a look at any piece of vintage clothing, you’ll probably find the small, square label, faded through with age. According to Wikipedia:
“The invention of the union label concept is attributed to the Carpenter’s Eight-Hour League in San Francisco, California, which adopted a stamp in 1869 for use on products produced by factories employing men on the eight- (as opposed to ten-) hour day. The concept of the union label as a tool for harnessing support from fellow working-class consumers for unionization spread rapidly in the next decades, first among the cigarmakers (their union adopted the first national union label in 1880), but among other unions as well, including typographers, garment workers, coopers, bakers and iron molders.”
And the labels were necessary. In the 1970s and ’80s, production of American goods teetered before an unsure future. Pleas to maintain jobs in the United States were an issue worthy of a public service campaign. The International Ladies’ Garment Workers Union — the largest in the United States, and composed primarily of women — organized a television announcement (complete with catchy theme song) to draw attention to failing factories and remind the public that behind each union label was an American family.
These days, it seems like the only PSAs on television focus on drugs, smoking and political ballyhoo. What contemporary movement do you think deserves a public campaign?