AFL-CIO Slaps Phony "Unionmade" Clothing Store With Cease and Desist

The little dust-up between Unionmade, the pinky finger-raising menswear store a block away from Dolores Park, and pretty much everyone has finally reached critical mass, with the AFL-CIO demanding they change their logo and name.

The fun started two weeks ago when the ever non-union union-trumpeting folks at Gawker, via a reader, discovered Unionmade isn't technically union-made:

There is a store (and website) in San Francisco that calls itself “Unionmade Goods”. As a member of a union household, I was initially excited to learn about the store, as I try to buy union-made goods as much as possible. Unfortunately, when I inquired by email whether the store called Unionmade Goods does in fact sell union-made goods, I was disappointed to learn that the name is merely an “homage to a time in our history when products were crafted with care, quality, longevity, and respect to the people that made them.” The email went on to say “we try to carry products that represent the 'Unionmade' ideals of yesteryear as it is virtually impossible to curate a store entirely of union labor made products.”

While I support the store's effort to 'curate' its inventory with products that are crafted with care, etc., the name of the store seems pretty fraudulent and insulting. “Union made” is not just an “ideal of yesteryear.” There are websites out there that sell goods that were actually made by union members, under the protection of a union contract. See, e.g., http://www.unionlabel.com/. As many workers that you've written about can attest, collective bargaining through a union representative remains an important path to a living wage and basic protections for employees. It's something that many people fight hard for, today.

It's always bummer to find out about a local company that tugs at our collective nostalgia for a time when workers were paid a tolerable salary just so they can sell $190 lumberjack shirts, but that's more-or-less the world we live in today.  However, the lawyers for the AFL-CIO were feeling a bit more concerned, sending the store a strongly-worded letter late last week:

What happens when a company that acknowledges its clothing is not union-made names itself “Unionmade” anyway? Count on union members proud of their reputation for quality work to say, “Give it up.” In a letter Thursday, the AFL-CIO demanded that the apparel company Unionmade—which also has a logo suspiciously like the historic AFL-CIO “handshake” logo—stop its trademark infringement and unfair competition.

The federation told the company to immediately stop using the logo (including not selling items showing it and removing the sign from stores and online sites) and change the store name so it “does not deceive the public into thinking that they are purchasing items that are actually made by union workers….”

It seems that the “trusted” store—as their insignia would lead us to believe—is finding themselves in a holiday pickle.  Change their brand before the union's imposed December 7th deadline, or face the likely wrath of endless lawsuits, picketing workers wearing the very clothes Unionmade yearns to sell, and lots of those giant inflatable rats.

Comments (44)

why can’t the yuppies ever catch a break?

Pricey and the customer service sucks. Who actually owns the store? My guess is Rose Pak and her mainland Chinese business associates.

What something that has been under your nose for years, but you never realized?

Isn’t everything made by a union, though? Don’t we all enter a contract that unites the employer with their employee, in essence creating a union? Why are we squabbling over these “he said, she said” banalities, and can’t we all just get along? Hold hands with me, my fellow Americans, and let us sing ‘Kumbaya’ together. Amen!

Ding-Ding-Ding - you neglected to use the sarcasm keys. Consult the user manual for your union-made computer, and try again.

Who says I was using sarcasm?

None of this comes as a surprise; the shocker is that Kevin Montgomery actually wrote a good article! Gasp!

Who in the hell is Kevin Montgomery?

I find that any store that describes their inventory as “curated” is run by assholes.

The misuse of ‘curated’ in modern culture is a whole other can of worms. In every store, someone is responsible for inventory. By the modern definition, my corner store features a finely curated collection of liquor and snack food.

In other news, their sister clothing goods store “Mill” in Noe Valley is apparently not staffed by lumberjacks or woodworkers of any kind. In fact, I found no equipment of any kind on the premises that could be used to saw logs OR pulverize grain OR process textiles. Well, that’s all I got, folks. I’m off to Napa to get my shirts done at French Laundry… Toodles.

Except that labor unions and the AFL-CIO (whose trademark is being copied) still exist and “union-made” actually means something which we often look for when shopping. Meanwhile mills staffed by lumberjacks no longer exist. You make a very facile point and write it out like it’s something clever; my fault for putting idealism over irony, I guess.

I’d replace ‘idealism’ with ‘reality’, but agree with you otherwise. The comment above yours (if it isn’t sarcasm) sort of sums up why people have such an issue with Unionmade in the first place. The store and its supporters speak as though organized labor unions are some sort of nostalgic myth of yesteryear only to be used as a reference point in their modern luxury ‘narrative’, but the reality is that ‘union made’ is an actual term with an actual definition in the same industry as this store and they choose to ignore it.

“Meanwhile mills staffed by lumberjacks no longer exist.” Yeah there is no timber industy any more in the usa..lol Guess you have never been to Northern CA or OR. My buddys dad is in fact a Lumberjack and works at a mill in Arcata CA

God, leave it to animal exploiters to miss the point entirely.

I felt the same way about the Levi’s “we are all workers” campaign. It’s the white-collar class thinking that being working-class is just another cute way of playing dress-up. Same goes for all the handmade “artisanal” urban craftsman bullshit. Try working in real physical labor sometime. It’s not a lifestyle fashion choice.

things were better when the upper class stuck to double-breasted suits and monocles.

This whole debate is idiotic. If anyone thought Unionmade making a stance with their name is a moron. They are selling handcrafted clothes that are symbolic of the times when products were actually made in the USA. I’m sure buying their clothes are actually the closest thing you can find to “Made in the USA” in our current economy. If you want to protest start at Gap, Fruit of the Loom, or wherever else you stuck up fucks buy your clothes from and go spend your time on more important issues.

You do understand you are calling people who buy fruit of the loom underwear “stuck up”, while defending a store that sells $565 “Vintage” Levi Jeans for selling “handcrafted clothes that are symbolic of the times when products were actually made in the USA.”

Good job troll

Right. And your Levi’s and Chuck Taylors are “symbolic” of being made in the USA even thought they’re made in Egypt and China. Who needs integrity when you can have symbolism.

It does seem, however, that you drink a hell of a lot before you type.

I stopped by this store a couple of times, and the prices are astronomical. If I were a cynic bastard, I’d hypothesize that the store is perpetuating the stereotype that union-made goods are too expensive.

The customer service sucks ass too; a bunch of pretentious pricks just hanging out there, instead of helping the customers. I wouldn’t be surprised if the store fails in a few months.

This store is dumb.

People who buy their clothes have a lot of money.

Their selection of cat clothes is not very large.

I think they should make pancakes instead of curating clothes for people to wear.

If I were president I would tell people to be themselves and not pretend to be a bearded hipsters.

These are mine two pennies.

Brilliant! The AFL-CIO uses their dwindling resources to threaten a small, local fashion retailer.

I love the friends and family of the owner posting in the comments.

You do realize that sending legal notices costs nothing right? They have the law firm on retainer.

The owner is a prick , just give it the same name as your other store and all the bad press goes away.

The law firm’s retainer fees costs nothing too, right?

I hope they take them to the fucking cleaners. It’s absolutely disgusting that this store has been trading on such blatantly and deeply disingenuous and dishonest misinformation.

On the local business naming front, I was shocked to discover that Luna Park is neither a park nor is it on the moon.

If Luna Park was called ‘Organic Certified’ and used a USDA logo, your comment would be relevant

You are hopelessly self righteous.

nah…not really

You’re right. I take it back. You’re actually a pseudo intellectual prig. Just wondering - do you find it tough to get through life with no ability to discern between the trivial and the important?

not really. I’m pretty good at multi-tasking.

jokes aside, I manage construction contracts for a living and union vs non-union is a very big deal. In my world, a misuse of the term ‘union’ can result in the loss of a license, lawsuits, shutting down of a multi-million dollar project, jail time, etc.

Yup, well said.

The Rolling Stones! The Who!?

There are not many things on the internet, and on this site in particular, that compel me to wade into the vitriolic commentary section but the topic of this post and the ensuing troll-strewn discussion is one of them. I find it absolutely appalling that so many of the comments here could be so callous, mocking, and smugly sarcastic. To be as dismissive and insensitive to the importance of unions to millions of working-class Americans and their family members as many of these comments have been is unconscionable. It makes me question whether those who are disparaging the AFL-CIO for bringing this suit–or, for that matter, anyone who is dumb enough to think that a place called UNIONMADE would actually carry union-made goods–have had in their lifetimes any contact with unions or have the smallest inkling to what unions represent for those who are a part of them. I would imagine not, otherwise these capitalist yuppie trolls wouldn’t find it easy to defend the blatantly misleading name and logo of the Unionmade store, or to be so arrogantly scornful of the AFL-CIO’s actions in representing an individual who wrote to the store in earnest, wanting to support their business because he believed that their values aligned with his way of life, only to find that they are in reality just a bunch of pretentious pricks exploiting nostalgic American values for a profit.

No wonder the city has a reputation as a haven for self-satisfied pretentious elitists.

just clarifying….you’re referring to the store, right?

Just throwing it out there, but union has other definitions too. Union made can also mean made in the union, an old timey way of saying made in the United States. Though the logo is a graphic design-y “inspired” branding rip off!

So Blackberry, should only sell actual blackberries? Farmers out there who sell fruit must be so upset… So misleading. Puma should only sell actual pumas, because someone out there may be mislead to believe they sell big cats… Burger King, isn’t actually the king of burgers?.. I’ve been so mislead. Ifs just a name. If you’re getting bent over it, you need to calm down.

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