Commonwealth Press donated 100% of proceeds of Bernie chair yard signs in homage to Sanders' own philanthropy | News | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Commonwealth Press donated 100% of proceeds of Bernie chair yard signs in homage to Sanders' own philanthropy

click to enlarge Commonwealth Press donated 100% of proceeds of Bernie chair yard signs in homage to Sanders' own philanthropy (2)
Photo: Commonwealth Press
Bernie chair yard sign
When Sen. Bernie Sanders was spotted sitting in a chair, arms folded with his iconic mittens during the presidential inauguration, his image quickly went viral and became a universally loved meme. Pittsburgh joined in on the fun too and created scores of yinzer-specific Bernie memes.

The Sanders campaign itself even took part, and made merchandise like sweaters and shirts, and then donated $1.8 million in proceeds to Vermont charities.

Local print shop Commonwealth Press created a life-size yard sign of the progressive senator sitting in his inauguration pose. The shop didn’t really intend to sell many of them, with a tongue-in-cheek post discouraging people from buying them, but the print shop sold a lot of signs anyway, and like Sanders, donated 100% of the proceeds to two Pittsburgh charities.
Before making the yard signs, Dan Rugh of Commonwealth Press says the shop received many requests for t-shirts and other merchandise, but they were a bit reluctant to have the shop hop on the trend.

Then Commonwealth Press decided that a yard sign would be funny and in good spirit.

“We put it in the yard, just to be funny,” says Rugh. “First words of our post were like ‘do not buy this,’ but people were really interested in them. We let it run for a bit.”

It ran, and Rugh says they were happy to go a long for a while, printing and creating Bernie signs for people. After a week, Commonwealth Press announced on social media that the shop had donated all of the proceeds from the sign sales to local youth development group Shadow Student Athletes and the Brashear Association's food pantry.

Rugh says the charities were in homage to Sanders’ decision to donate to charities in his home state, like food banks and other groups. Commonwealth Press has struggled during the pandemic (the print shop had to close down their Bloomfield storefront last year), but Rugh says the decision to donate the proceeds was an easy one. He says he didn’t want to come off as opportunistic in capitalizing on the Bernie meme trend.

“I was just trying to be funny and lighthearted,” says Rugh. “I didn’t want to look like it was trying to exploit something. If it goes to a good cause, that is the goal.”

Rugh wouldn’t say how many signs they sold, but said they were able to donate funds with “a couple zeros” to the Pittsburgh charities. When asked what he would want Sanders to take away from Commonwealth Press’ signs and donations, Rugh says he would want Sanders to know the shop is trying to follow his good example. And of course remind him that Commonwealth Press is a strong supporter of labor unions, and is the only unionized all-encompassing print, design, and screening shop in the city of Pittsburgh.

“I would just be proud to tell him that we followed in his footsteps,” says Rugh. “And showed that these efforts can be done in good faith. And that we are the only union print shop in the region. I would want him to know that is important to us.”