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6/28/2005

Union Label and Service Trades Education Conference Focuses On Future

Source: Teamsters

Recently, more than 200 delegates gathered for the annual Union Label and Service Trades Department Education Conference in Portland, Oregon. The meeting took place in conjunction with the 2005 AFL-CIO Union-Industries Show held April 29-May 2.At the conference, the delegates reviewed and discussed ideas for keeping good union jobs in the U.S., environmental initiatives, new technology and consumer conscience issues.

Brandon Weber, CEO and creator of Union Built PCs, outlined a program that creates an electronic hiring hall to connect union computer professionals to unions in search of expert advice and skills. The goal is to develop a nationwide network of technicians who will work with unions and members to install and repair computers as well as educate computer users.

The participants also got a first look at the new Union Label and Service Trades Department (ULSTD) web site, which builds on the department’s database of union companies and seeks to provide a convenient way for buyers to find union companies. More than 1,500 companies are listed in the site’s database, selling everything from automotive parts to vacation packages. Many of the companies have an online sales capability. The web site also features an online reporting system, allowing companies and buyers to add new information to the database. The delegates were urged to promote the site and encourage union members to patronize the companies listed.

The conference also featured an update on the Apollo Project, a 10-point industry initiatives program, developed by a coalition of labor, environmental business, urban and faith organizations. The program calls for more efficient factories with advanced technologies, high performance buildings and energy efficient appliances. It also calls for a modernization of America’s infrastructure, expanding the development of renewable energy sources and improved transportation options.

To round out the discussions, Professor Ian Robinson from the University of Michigan shared the results of recent studies on consumer motivation. According to his research, consumers will opt for goods made under decent conditions, as opposed to sweatshop products, even if at a higher price. According to a poll taken in 2004, 61 percent of Americans say they would pay up to 20 percent more for products that they knew were produced under sweatshop-free conditions.

However, an increasing number of companies—particularly in the garment and textile industries—are delving more and more into sweatshop operations. In New York and Los Angeles, a study shows that much of the work has gone back into the homes and piecework. As the trend continues, more workers and a wider range of industries will be affected.

“The challenge for labor and activists is to educate consumers to understand the impact of sweatshops on their own well-being,” Robinson said.

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