Monday, June 20, 2011

Let's Practice Boycotting Some More: Target Edition

Apparently I really like to suggest that we boycott stuff. But I haven't done it in awhile, so here we go again. Next on the list: Target.

I can hear you from here. Yes, they have cheap colorful stuff that you need for your house. Yes, they have the only jeans around that fit you and that you can also afford. Yes, you can buy your produce and your new bedspread in one place. I know. Trust me, this hurts me as much as it hurts you.

The catalyst for this post is their corporate anti-union video that has been making the round on the internet lately. A friend of mine brought it to my attention, appropriately describing it as "funny and fucked all at the same time." All Target employees have to watch this video, so you should too, out of empathy, and so you know what the hell I'm talking about in the next paragraph! Go ahead, you're looking for a reason to procrastinate anyway.

Here are the things that Target is willing to prioritize above treating people humanely, according to what the goons in this video say:
* The health of the business.
* The convenience of guests (clearly related to health of the business - all of these points are).
* Being A Valuable Team Member (because you are not valuable if you have rights).
* Your "freedom" to work in any department, not just the one you were assigned.
* The labor relations dude's "freedom" to dress like a jackass. Yes, I am judging his turtleneck.

I'm glad we got that cleared up. Happy customers and productivity matter more than anything else. This video also plays right into the myth of meritocracy: Someone else might get something that you "deserve" more! Whatever that means. And this is also more important than treating people humanely, obviously. All of this also makes me wonder why they need to make this video, since they bend over backwards to say that Target team members have the freedom to join unions but never do. If joining a union is such a horrible idea, this video isn't necessary, and anyone who can think critically will figure that out. So I'm guessing that people would maybe sometimes like to join a union, but feel that their job or well-being would be threatened if they did. Videos like this certainly contribute to that sense.

Much of what they say about unions in this video is wrong, of course. Ezra Klein does a good job laying out some of the reasons we still need unions here, and I shall summarize his points for you: Unions do give people a voice, allowing them to raise issues with management without fear of reprisal. In an economy dominated by corporations, they serve as what John Kenneth Galbraith called a "countervailing force" and push back against policies that are against the best interests of workers or the environment. And in a world where politics is dominated by money and big businesses have most of that money, it helps to have another big organization pushing back. Robert Reich over at Talking Points Memo also points out that if we want to get the economy back on track, we need to expand the purchasing power of the middle class, and studies show that unionized employees make 30% more than non-unionized employees and are 59% more likely to have employer-provided health insurance. He also makes the point that at many large corporations - ahem - employees might want to unionize but are intimidated or threatened into not doing so.

Need some more reasons? How about the fact that the Target CEO doesn't even want to talk about their donations to anti-gay political candidates? As Queerty points out, they can't claim to be neutral on a civil rights issue. This fact alone has many people in the queer community avoiding Target.

Oh, also, Target totally lets its pharmacists refuse to fill prescriptions for birth control if they have a religious objection to it. This is lunacy. If you don't want to fill prescriptions, don't be a pharmacist. Being a pharmacist should not give you the power to make decisions about someone else's reproductive health. Corporations should not be getting behind this kind of moral judgment-making, though Target crossed that line, if you will, already.

That's enough for me. I'll be getting my cute throw pillows on Etsy.

Image is of the Lawrence textile strike of 1912.

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