Left Justified: Go union!

I wrote an apology to the Electrical Workers Local 364. They threw a picket around the building that my office now occupies (the former Hedrick Electric at 201 Seventh St.). I was surprised! The contractor who had been hired to work on this building had said that he would “hire union workers.” Well, he did, except that he himself was not union, and yet he did all the electrical work. Our misspoken contractor also said he would work with the many volunteer church groups that would show up. (We need a lot of free labor in fixing up this old building.) Well, he misled us on both accounts.

We finally got out of his contract (yes, it cost us a bundle), and now we are looking for a union contractor through one of Rockford Urban Ministries’ member congregations. We should have done that in the first place!

I’ve learned a lot about rehabbing while working on this old building, and am thankful for all the volunteers and donors who have given their time, energy and paychecks to see us through so far. Many churches have sent volunteers: Poplar Grove United Methodist Church (UMC), Grace UMC, The Unitarian Universalists, Second Congregational, and, especially, Aldersgate UMC, to name just a few. More are needed!

We have a wonderful young man who refurbished the floor and brought out the great color of the wood (Cory from Floor Seasings). I can hardly wait to show some of the former Hedrick Electric workers who have all dropped in and given us old pictures and news articles. We are still looking for an early picture from the outside.

This neighborhood is still a tough one. We have a lingerie boutique kitty corner from our building, as well as a few nasty bars just down the street. But I love the little chocolate shop, our friends at Phoenix Traders and our neighbors at the Valkommen Plaza. Seventh Street is a fun place, and getting better all the time.

The fair trade store should be open sometime in September or maybe October. The lighting fixtures should be installed soon. The group is incorporating as a not-for-profit entity, and seeks loans to purchase items from fair trade-certified outlets.

Some of you may know about fair trade through the coffee: it’s where the beans are grown organically, and the harvester is paid a fair wage. Well, there’re other items that are fair traded, especially through a group called Ten Thousand Villages (go ahead and Google them). Pottery, textiles, jewelry and even furniture are fair traded. We are seeking interest-free loans to help us purchase. Otherwise, there are some fair-trade producers that will consign items to our soon-to-be opened store. (Don’t confuse fair trade with free trade—free trade is what Wal-Mart does, and it is anything but fair.)

If you have interest in learning more or helping, please feel free to give me a call at (815) 964-7111. Better leave a message ‘cause there’s still construction going on, and I might be out helping those volunteers with our new union electrician.

And for your information, the needle exchange will find a home (finally). Right now, they are conducting their services via telephone and have still helped more than 15 people into recovery just this last month. They are planning a garage sale and can use your support, Saturday and Sunday, June 24 and 25, at 824 Seventh St. Please call 961-1269 if you have items to donate.

Stanley Campbell is executive director of Rockford Urban Ministries and spokesman for Rockford Peace & Justice.

From the June 7-13, 2006, issue

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