From Greenwashing to Workerwashing

Picture: Rion (CC)

You don’t need health benefits and time off, you need a burger and a cola!  David Sirota writes at

Big Industrial Ag pretends to go organic. PC behemoths mimic Apple products. Barack Obama goes to the right of the Republicans on civil liberties. Mitt Romney suddenly portrays himself as a left-leaning moderate on immigration. It seems no matter the arena, the most cliched move in corporate and political combat is to co-opt an opponent’s message, expecting nobody to notice or care.

But as inured as we are to this banality, it’s still shocking to see Corporate America transform the message of organized labor into a sales pitch for … Corporate America. Yes, according to The New York Times last month, that’s what’s happening, as new ads are “tapping into a sense of frustration among workers to sell products.”

One spot for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (read: the casinos) shows a woman climbing onto her desk to demand a vacation. Another for McDonald’s implores us to fight back against employers and “overthrow the working lunch.” Still another for a Coca-Cola subsidiary seizes on the stress of harsh working conditions to create buzz for a branded “Take the Year Off” contest.

“Marketers are adopting the theme of workers’ rights at a time when unions themselves are confronting declines in membership and influence,” notes the Times. “In effect, some labor experts say, they are turning a pro-worker theme on its head to serve the corporate interest.”

In one sense, this is good news for organized labor — at a moment when unions are under assault, the ads reflect polls showing persistent mass support for both the concept of worker solidarity and the economic outrage voiced by worker protests. Indeed, companies wouldn’t be echoing such themes if they didn’t know they were wildly popular.

And yet, that’s also why organized labor can’t take too much solace. Image-wise, the ad campaign undermines unions by effectively severing the popular pro-worker message from the labor movement brand. Preposterously, the spots insinuate that workers can get better treatment — and wield real power in the employer-employee relationship — wholly without unions.

It’s a fantasy, of course.

Read more here.

5 Comments on "From Greenwashing to Workerwashing"

  1. i don’t think the “individual employer can fight the corporation” part of the message will get anywhere because it’s flat-out unbelievable.

    • BuzzCoastin | Oct 24, 2012 at 9:14 pm |

      just like the politico/psycho-babble
      the sheeple swallow all sorts of unbelievable stuff all the time

      advertising today is not meant to be believable
      it’s just a warm electric froth to go with your entertrainment

      what the ads are meant to do is to soften the guilt of those who buy corporate consumerist shit
      while the elite overlords are seen as sympathetic and caring
      and it helps give people the necessary excuses for being sheeple

  2. I understand the message:

    The corporation is your friend,
    it is the citizen who will give you life.
    Place yourself under their protection
    and you will get what (we know) you need.

    You’ll learn that outside the corporation
    is starvation, violence and suffering
    and inside the corporation – acceptance.
    Understand that
    and you will give us your everything
    and you’ll be grateful for what we give to you.

  3. Corporations are like the “Blob”. They ooze over you and take control of ‘who’ and ‘what’ you are.
    They ‘become’ you!

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