Our society has been thoughtlessly consumed by blind materialism for the last several decades. We need to open our eyes to how we spend our money.

Recently we were having dinner with a union member and he talked about visiting family members in North Carolina. When he was younger so many of his family members worked in textile plants. He recalled visiting back east when the big box stores opened up and flooded the market with cheap, poor quality imports and how these same family members would pile into their cars and excitedly go to Wal-Mart to buy cheap clothing. He was filled with the thought of "What are you people thinking?" as he watched them with glee purchase stuff made overseas that were in direct competition with what they made with their own hands.

"Well, now when I go visit, the only textile factory left is a museum and my relatives are working delivering pizzas and stuff like that," he told me with a look of disgust. The chain of causality was pretty clear.

As a society we've developed a strange materialism where the joy of buying is more important than the joy of having. We've been content with purchasing alien products that are disposable because they're cheap and we've deluded ourselves that cheap means value, when it doesn't.

There's a meaningful joy that comes from knowing what you purchase comes from a source you can be proud of. If you have the choice of buying a lamp that you know was handcrafted by a person who has a multi-generational tradition of designing lamps, you're going to look at that lamp in a different way. You're going to take care of that lamp. You're going to see the hands that crafted that lamp when you turn it on. It becomes special.

Now, if that lamp had been made in a sweat shop by child labor in a country where the government tortures political dissidents, you simply cannot get the same feeling from owning that lamp. Some part of you has to look away because deep inside you know your dollars funded suffering by buying that lamp. It creates an emptiness and as a society we have been filling that void with the quick high of buying more cheap stuff made in foreign countries...

Which creates further emptiness...

Which we seek to fill by buying more cheap stuff that we don't need...

And the downward cycle continues...

Well, it's time to stop that cycle.

Cynics may disagree but this country is built upon one beautiful romantic notion:  The American Dream. Imperfect that it may be, the dream that a person who works hard and perseveres can build a life for themselves and their family is intrinsically honorable. It's just.

That dream cannot end because with its end we become truly lost as a society. With its end we on a core spiritual level cease to be "Americans." We cease to claim the mantle of Greatness that has driven the destiny of this nation and its citizens.

It's not too late.

Overcoming a problem begins by recognizing a problem and then changing one's behavior.

The truth is that for the hands that build our products, deliver our services and maintain our places of pride... the hands that are best enabled to realize that precious American Dream... are union hands.

You may not agree with everything unions do--nothing is perfect in this world-but in the end unions look after those people who economic forces would too often deny them their fair shot at the American Dream... because we all deserve a fair shot at the American Dream.

It is our birthright as Americans.

Our goal at LA Labor 411 is truly simple:  When you buy or shop for anything, somewhere in your decision-making process should be the question, "Is there an reasonable option here to buy union?"  And if that option is there, you should take the small, additional step to buy that product or service.

Because taking that small additional step is a vote for the American Dream.

Because the American Dream matters to all of us, including you.

Remember. Buying union matters.

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