halloween-kidsWhen the phone rang late this afternoon, I could see it was my daughter calling. “Mom, don’t forget to pick up some Halloween candy on your way home!” I felt a sudden flush of anxiety. That same phone call a few weeks ago would have been a no-brainer. Stop at any grocery store and pick up a bag of whatever generic Halloween candy was on special. But now that I was doing the Union Challenge it wasn’t going to be so easy. What do I buy? Is there even any union-made candy? And where can I buy them?

 

I took a deep breath. I figured the Vons (UFCW) on my way home was a good place to start. I pulled into the parking lot, thinking of all the adorable trick-or-treaters that swarm across my block every Halloween, worried about what I could offer them this year that was union-made. But as I approached the candy aisle, my list from www.lalabor411.org in hand, I quickly realized this wasn’t going to be a difficult challenge at all. Taking a quick glance at the list, I found that both the United Food & Commercial Workers and the Bakery, Confectionary, Tobacco Workers  (BCTGM) produce a lot of popular national brands candies and cookies.

 

Here are some:

 

  • Abba-Zaba Bar                      
  • Baby Ruth                              
  • Black & Red Licorice Vines
  • Boston Baked Beans (the candy!)          
  • Butterfinger                          
  • Carmello Bar
  • Chips Ahoy!                           
  • Clark Bar                                 
  • Crunch N’ Munch
  • Dolly Madison                       
  • Fifth Avenue Chocolate Bar  
  • Fig Newtons
  • Ghiradelli Chocolates                          
  • Godiva Chocolates                
  • Hot Tamales                           
  • Hershey Chocolate    
  • Hostess Products                   
  • Jawbreakers                            
  • Jelly Bellies
  • Jolly Ranchers                        
  • Malted Milk Balls                  
  • Mike and Ike’s                       
  • Nutter Butter                         
  • Oreo’s                                     
  • Russell Stover Candy
  • See’s Candy                           
  • Snackwells                             
  • Tootsie Rolls
  • York Peppermint Patties        
  • Zagnut

halloween-candyLooking over ALL these choices, I suddenly realized I had the luxury of deciding, “What should I buy?” In that moment, I realized that I was used to being a mindless consumer zombie when shopping. I’m sure I had contributed to companies that didn’t care about their workers or the communities where their factories were located, or worse yet, had even inadvertently supported companies guilty of human rights abuses at their factories overseas.

 

But not today. Today I was making thoughtful choices. Looking over all these choices of candy, I thought about my fellow union brothers and sisters who had made them, a lot of whom worked long hours to support their families, and who cared about the American Dream and a better life for their children. I also knew how important these buying decisions can be because Halloween sales can make or break a candy manufacturer’s balance sheet. And that profitability means whether or not they can hire more workers or extend workers hours… or have to cut them.

 

And as I dropped oversized bags of Tootsie Rolls and mini-Butterfingers bars and Mike and Ike’s candies into my basket I felt the warmth of knowing I was making a choice that in some small way was support a greater cause that I care about. It was the warm empowerment of choosing to do something good instead of just reacting to what was available to me. I was waking up from my zombie slumber.

 

I raised my fist in the air and chuckled, “Cherri Senders — union Consumerista!”I got me a few odd looks, but, hey, if you can’t have a little fun every once in a while, what’s the point, right? In any case, it’s one small victory and I might as well enjoy it.

 

Pulling into my driveway, my daughter met me at the car. “Mom! What did you get?” It’s funny how something as simple as candy brings out that innocent enthusiasm, even in jaded teenage girls. It’s just a wonderful mystery. Next week we’ll have little ghosts and goblins banging on the door and chiming “TRICK OR TREAT!” and my husband and I will feign terror as we drop handfuls of Tootsie Rolls and Butterfingers in their bags. It’s all silly, but it’s good fun. It’s community.

 

And these kids won’t know it, but I will. I’ll know that this silly fun helps keep fellow Americans in jobs where they have protections and safety… That knowledge makes me feel good… because it should.

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