Tuesday, December 04, 2012

a label that says "sue me"

Via an eagle-eyed correspondent, here's a Gawker story about a California-based company that sells a clothing line, Unionmade, that ... is not made by unions.  The company says that it "aims to improve the lives of our customers, community and suppliers by offering fairly priced products made from the best available materials."  And also by deceiving them and disrespecting actual union-made products!

Further from Gawker:
First, we heard from a woman who emailed Unionmade saying that she wanted to buy a present for her dad, a Teamster. They informed her that, no, their goods are not actually union made—"The name UNIONMADE is an overarching concept and narrative for the store, signifying that we strive to carry well made and aesthetically timeless goods." A rather unsatisfying explanation for a term that already has a well understood explanation.

Then, we heard from another disappointed would-be customer, who wrote:
There is a store (and website) in San Francisco that calls itself "Union Made Goods" (http://www.unionmadegoods.com/). As a member of a union household, I was initially excited to learn about the store, as I try to buy union-made goods as much as possible. Unfortunately, when I inquired by email whether the store called Union Made Goods does in fact sell union-made goods, I was disappointed to learn that the name is merely an "homage to a time in our history when products were crafted with care, quality, longevity, and respect to the people that made them." The email went on to say "we try to carry products that represent the "Union Made" ideals of yesteryear as it is virtually impossible to curate a store entirely of union labor made products."
While I support the store's effort to 'curate' its inventory with products that are crafted with care, etc., the name of the store seems pretty fraudulent and insulting. "Union made" is not just an "ideal of yesteryear." There are websites out there that sell goods that were actually made by union members, under the protection of a union contract. See, e.g., http://www.unionlabel.com/. ...
Now, suppose this prima facie falsity and materiality weren't enough. Take a look at this ad, with particular attention to the small circular images of shaking hands below "Unionmade":
Now take a look at the AFL-CIO handshake "Union Made" logo:
Unionmade's terrible response to Gawker?
You are correct, though some of the brands we carry are union made, many are not. The unfortunate reality is that there are not many unions left in the garment industry and so the name was cultivated as a signifier of well-made and aesthetically timeless goods. There have been customers that take issue with the store's name and we certainly understand and respect their opinion, though by and large the majority of our customers understand the use of the name as an overarching narrative of the store.
You don't get to advertise falsely because it's hard to find the products you could make a truthful claim about.  This store's arrogance and disrespect for actual union-made products, and blithe assumption that it can appropriate a specific feature it doesn't have as its "signifier," makes me yearn for it to get stomped on, hard, ideally by consumers, regulators, and competitors. And also the AFL-CIO, which has sent a C&D that for once I think wasn't harsh enough.

(How can you posture that unions are dead as the dodo and then copy an existing union logo?  That's some numbskullery.)

Okay, I'm gonna go take a deep breath now.

1 comment:

Francesca Coppa said...

Wow, I am also so unbelievably angry. Worst sort of postmodernism, Jesus.