November 30th, 2012

Retailer’s corporate name defiles unions and union workers

Ask any American what the term “union made” means and the most likely answer is that the product has been made, or the service delivered by, workers who are members of a labor union. But a snarky retailer started a San Francisco-based high-price clothing store in 2009, naming it UNIONMADE. According to Peter Dreier, an Occidental College politics professor, only 3 to 5% of the store’s inventory is actually union made. Dreir asked CEO Todd Barket if the moniker is misleading. Barket said. “It had nothing to do with unions. I’m surprised that people took the name literally.”

Barket confidently told Dreir, “There really are no clothing unions left. There’s no one to make a fuss.” Wow. We obviously live in surreal parallel universes. In his, unions don’t exist; in mine, unions and workers in general could and should again enjoy national popularity as the alternative to a dominating plutocracy.

Barket’s also flaunted the decline of unions by designing a logo that mirrors closely the AFL-CIO logo used in some variation since 1881. The AFL-CIO is now making a fuss, claiming trademark infringement.

Call it the end of societal civility or the end of considering if others will be offended by one’s actions BEFORE acting. People like Todd Barket obviously believes unions are no longer a force to be reckoned with and therefore can ignore them to the point of stealing their intellectual property and identity.

In UNIONMADE’s “About Us” statement, Barket claims:

The name “Unionmade” was conceived around the notion of well-made and aesthetically classic goods. We strive to carry items of the utmost quality that will continue to serve the owner well over time. While we carry many items that are made in the United States, we also sell items that are made responsibly in countries around the world. Our goal has always been, and will always be, to treat people with respect, honor quality and celebrate the timelessness of American style.

Respect for customers but not actual unions to which UNIONMADE should be deferential.

Ironically, few union workers can afford UNIONMADE’s prices. For example the “Every Man’s Shirt,” an cotton chambry shirt (my undergrad college uniform for years) which sells for $210.

The corporatization of the English language preceded the Frank Luntz version of spinning manure into edible fare used by politicians. Advertising and public relations professionals have clouded and distorted language to sell the unsellable to the gullible public.

In our contemporary world, words mean so much less than they used to. Businesses speak with a constant artificiality. Nothing is clear and direct. People follow suit. They promote themselves with vacuous phrases gleaned from advertising.

Take UNIONMADE’s juxtaposition of respect for people, honoring quality, and celebration of style. It’s a nonsensical non-sequiter.

We hope the AFL-CIO gets to save its name and identity, but pro-corporate courts do not impart confidence.


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This entry was posted on Friday, November 30th, 2012 at 11:35 am and is filed under Commentary by G. Namie, The New America, Unions. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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