Stop the Rip Off! Resistance Merchandise Makers Need to Come to the Table

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As a progressive, I am gratified to see that there’s money to be made in resistance merchandise. It means we have consumer power on our side. We are only six months into the Trump presidency and progressive manufacturers are bringing in millions with still-brisk sales of anti-Trump t-shirts, bags, bumper stickers or covfefe … sorry…coffee mugs.

A recent round-up on boasts some impressive sales numbers: $2.5 million for Cotton Bureau during the first three months of 2017 and $3 million for Bonfire, which handled the Women’s March merch. Resistance swag has been so lucrative, in fact, that some smaller merchandisers and sloganeers are seeing their work ripped off by copycats. That’s unfortunate, since people like screen printer Natalie Gaimari used her feminist t-shirts needling Trump to raise more than $10,000 for her favorite charity, Planned Parenthood, while the countless knock-offs benefit only the seller.

The good news is resistance gear manufacturers – new and established – are often making their products in America. The more disappointing news: several of the newer anti-Trump organizations are getting their gear from non-unionized companies. The union bug - synonymous with good jobs and so ubiquitous on products during Democratic campaigns, has gone into hiding in this new wave.

Some progressive manufacturers claims the product they sell will only be union-made or by American companies committed to worker’s rights, but simply have not switched over yet. They make the case that union-made products can be difficult to find and that young progressives aren’t making the effort to seek them out.

“[Young progressives] just don’t understand the impact that union has because it hasn’t been at the forefront of the political realm over the last few campaigns,” notes Paul McConnell of FII Marketing, which makes union-made anti-Trump gear for Emily’s List and End Citizens United.

“I don’t blame these young people for not being more conscious of things like union bugs. They grew up in a world where only 6.5 percent of the private sector was unionized,” adds Bob Master, Communications Workers of America (CWA) political director for the northeast.

Union membership may be in decline, but there are encouraging signs of organizing upticks, particularly in the online publishing industry. And with millennials increasingly in the drivers’ seat, insisting on socially responsible corporations, consumer power is on the rise. As the publisher of Labor 411, a directory listing more 10,000 union-made goods and services, I say now is not the time to wave the white flag. If the next generation of progressives doesn’t understand that workers rights were built on the backs of organized labor, then it’s our job to help educate them that our power only comes from working together.

Once we have done that, we invite them to join us at a table that is large enough for all of us. Let’s all resist together. I’ll bring the covfefe.

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