More Than a Game: It’s Time We Put Our Money Where Our Values Are

The Super Bowl reflects the best of America. Not just because we get to watch some of America’s greatest athletes participating at the highest level in their sport. Nor is it the glitzy, over-the-top halftime shows. It’s not even because the Super Bowl is one of this country’s last communal viewings, with more than 110 million Americans expected to tune in to witness the action in Glendale, Arizona.

No, the Super Bowl reflects the best of us because it epitomizes the Land of Opportunity that rewards hard work — from the athletes on the field, to the broadcast crews, to all of the stadium and support staff it takes to put on a show like this.

While the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks duke it out on the gridiron, the television, radio and online production crews will be doing their magic to make the contest accessible for fans around the world. For the halftime show, talented stagehands will set up Katy Perry’s performance platform quicker than it takes most of us to make a sandwich. And all the stadium and support staff will be busy keeping fans satisfied and making sure things run smoothly. With more money spent on this game — a jaw-dropping $4.5 million for a 30-second commercial and another $11.7 million spent by stadium fans on food, drink and merchandise — it’s no wonder these folks can all get paid good wages.

But the Super Bowl’s impact will also be felt off the field in Arizona this year. Pilots and their crews will safely transport fans to and from the Phoenix area, bus drivers will get folks to the stadium, hotel workers will make sure that these people have a comfortable stay — and don’t forget about the highly-skilled construction crews that built University of Phoenix Stadium.

What do all of these divergent folks — stage builders, TV production crews, transportation and service industry personnel — have in common? Most of them get paid good wages for a fair day’s work, receive health insurance and are treated with respect on the job. As a result, they can provide for their families, go to the movies, enjoy an occasional dinner out and be comfortable members of the middle class living the American Dream.

But not everyone in America is so lucky. With income inequality and the widening gulf between the haves and the have-nots front and center in American politics today, what can TV viewers and fans watching the biggest game of the year do to make a difference?

The $1 billion spent on food and beer for Super Bowl parties are a good place to start. When buying snacks for this year’s game, select goodies made by companies that treat their employees well. It’s as simple as grabbing a bag of Lay’s or Ruffles potato chips, Rold Gold Pretzels or a jar of Pace salsa over another brand. With an estimated $184 million spent on potato chips and another $40 million on pretzels for Super Bowl parties, those choices can start adding up — and making a difference.

Want to have a bigger impact? Shop at grocery stores that respect their workers.  Buy your supplies this year at Vons, Ralphs and Albertsons, and stay away from race-to-the-bottom employers like El Super or Walmart.

To paraphrase Henry Ford, paying workers well is good business. Good wages make a stronger America for all of us — your friends, your neighbors and your community. For consumers, supporting high-road employers doesn’t have to mean a lot of sacrifice. If we were to dedicate just 10 percent of spending on products and services made by companies that paid their employees well, the change we would feel in our communities would be obvious and immediate. We need to reward companies that treat their employees humanely, and discourage those who don’t. Those high-road businesses would thrive and the bottom feeders would be forced to either rethink their approach, or wither away.

The buying power of the typical American consumer is an untapped resource. As a country, we’re learning to base some of our purchasing decisions on what may be best for the environment — the green movement. It’s about time that we also base our purchasing decisions on what is also best for America.

Then we can all be winners this Super Bowl Sunday.

Visit Labor 411 for a long list of union-made snacks and beverages.

Crosspost from Capitol & Main