Rochester MEA members make their money ‘talk’ to local businesses

Members of Rochester's North Hill Elementary School spent their money at Penny Black, a Rochester neighborhood restaurant.

Sometimes it takes a powerful visual to make the point that school employees are the backbone of a community’s economy. In Rochester, those employees let their money do the talking for them at their “Educators' Cash Mob” on March 6.

That evening after work, Rochester teachers, secretaries, and para-educators took to Rochester’s downtown to do business with local merchants.  Hundreds of Rochester MEA members left business cards and red “Union $” stickers on receipts to prove they frequent and spend money at local businesses.  In just that one evening, those school employees spent more than $15,000 at local businesses.

“We believe it turned out better than we could have hoped,” said, Cara Lougheed, Rochester Education Association member and event organizer. “Lots of educators came into downtown following their work day to shop, dine and socialize. “

At least 31 local businesses made sales that evening and others had plenty of foot traffic. One member closed on a home sale at a downtown title company and another bought home appliances at the local appliance store.

Inspired by flash mobs that involve strangers breaking into song or dance in a public place, Rochester school employees’ version was designed to make local businesses aware of how vital the school employees are to the financial health of the local economy. The three groups represent more than 1,200 potential customers who have been working under expired contracts. Any concessions resulting from the bargaining will impact each member’s discretionary income and, ultimately, the income of every Rochester business.

Lougheed said, “We made merchants aware we were in town. The business people we spoke to were certainly appreciative of our business and showed a genuine interest in learning more about the status of our negotiations.”