While some American consumers make a purposeful choice to purchase union-built automobiles and union-made clothing, they tend to pay less attention to the conditions under which their electronics are manufactured. Have you ever heard of computers assembled by union labor? I know I hadn’t. I had just assumed that the labor movement and computer manufacturers existed in mutually exclusive universes and that it would be near-impossible to find a computer company in which employees were empowered to advocate for their own fair wages and treatment. But I was wrong.
While it’s unlikely that we’ll be seeing 100% union-made computers (with all parts, assembly, and support by union members) anytime soon, some progress is being made: one small company has begun to sell and support union-built computers in response to other manufacturers’ decisions to use non-union labor, usually abroad.
In 2001, a group of labor movement activists decided to turn their vision for a labor-friendly computer company into a reality by creating Union Built PC. With the goal of supporting both domestic and international labor unions, this company takes all the innards (union-made parts whenever possible) and employs union workers to assemble them, sell them to buyers, and provide support under a reasonable warranty. In just a few years, Union Built PC has grown to sell not just union-built desktop and laptop computers but also servers, projectors, and even labor union management software.
Although the union-built computers are slightly more expensive than those made by the immediately recognizable companies like Dell, HP, IBM, and Toshiba, the price difference is not unreasonable for buyers who consider support of the labor movement worth a few extra bucks. Rather than dealing with a global giant, users get to deal with a more manageable company that takes pride in its goal of keeping jobs here in the United States. Many of Union Built PC’s customers are labor-based businesses and organizations, but they more than welcome individual buyers too. For more information on the company, visit their website at www.unionbuiltpc.com. As of this writing, they are selling five different models of computer, including a laptop priced under $1000. They’re also more than happy to give folks insight on why they discourage Dell computers in particular.
In an age of huge, faceless entities controlling the computer market, I think it’s nice to see a maverick company sticking to its guns and putting out a product with pride. If you have thoughts on labor union support and the computer industry, please add a comment to this article.