David Banks, who blogs at Cyborgology, let us know that Gawker has posted an anti-union video Target shows to new hires. Apparently as some Target stores have started carrying groceries, some grocery workers’ unions have made efforts to unionize some stores, a move that Target, along with its larger big-box sibling, Wal-Mart, finds very threatening. The video includes a lot of common arguments — we’re all a family here, the union just wants your dues, etc. — along with some I found more unusual:
Full transcript here.
What I found especially striking was the segment starting at about 3:10, where they argue we don’t need unions because, basically, they were so effective in the past, they already fixed everything! There’s no more child labor, you can get worker’s comp if you’re injured…what more could you need a union for? So on the one hand, today unions are useless, empty organizations that just take your money and give you nothing, but in the past, they were great. Presumably employers only had to be told once to clean up, and then for all time everything is fixed.
I also liked David’s point about the video’s use of the idea of communal vs. individual action. On the one hand, the video repeatedly stresses the rights of the individual and suggests that unions interfere with an individual’s ability to make their own choices (and implying that all union contracts are identical and will be imposed on workers, rather than the outcome of negotiations). But as David points out, the video includes rather contradictory messages about individual and collective action, with the union presented as the bad collective but Target as the good, familial, happy collective:
The video manages to seamlessly contradict itself: the company is a communal entity while simultaneously granting each individual total autonomy. The union does the opposite- it pressures you into collective action while you’re trying to be a neoliberal individual, and it makes you break away from the “Target Family” when they’re trying to be communal.
Target has often avoided the negative publicity aimed at Wal-Mart about labor practices, treatment of workers, and anti-union activity; I know when I was an undergrad back in the ’90s, and anti-Wal-Mart activism was one of the topics of the day, some of my friends and I thought that shopping at Target instead of Wal-Mart meant we were really doing something meaningful in terms of opposing bad labor practices. But as this video illustrates, Target has fairly similar labor policies to Wal-Mart, whatever you think of them, just with less global market power to throw around.