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