Labor’s Taking It To The Streets

Pacific Northwest Regional Council of Carpenters is picketing Ross and Nordstrom Rack in downtown Portland. I received a leaflet in front of both stores today.

The Council of Carpenters believes Ross and Nordstrom have “an obligation to the community to see that area labor standards are met for construction work performed on their projects.” The union claims that the contractors employed by Ross and Nordstrom “do not meet area labor standards on all their projects, including providing or fully paying for family health care and pension.”

Of course, it makes sense that labor wants to do battle on the reputation ground. Ross and Nordstrom say they’re one thing, The Council of Carpenters say the companies are another. Who is the public going to believe? The company with many millions of dollars invested in its brand, or the group of angry carpenters?

When a company like BP spends hundreds of millions of dollars to convince people they’re “green,” it’s natural that people will begin to see the company the way it portrays itself. Until something happens to shatter the illusion. Paying contractors low wages isn’t the same thing as destroying wildlife for hundreds of miles in every direction and endangering coastal economies in five states and Mexico. But the bottom line is the same–brands are built with so much more than advertising. Brands are an expression of all that a company is, labor practices included.



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.