American Eagle seems like a perfectly nice clothing store, right? With their "Old School Style, New School Softness," they couldn't possibly be bad, right? They even have a line of clothes called "Endless Summer." A company that wants to give us endless warmth and sunshine undoubtedly also gives its workers raises and follows its own code of conduct to allow them to form unions...right?
Unfortunately, American Eagle Outfitters does not do this these things. According to labor union, UNITE HERE....
American Eagle Outfitters says it cares about workers – its Code of Conduct requires contractors to respect the right of employees to form a union. Yet workers at the warehouse contracted to ship AEO clothing in Canada faced harassment and intimidation when they tried to improve conditions by forming a union. And American Eagle hasn't lifted a finger to enforce its Code of Conduct.
A majority of workers at National Logistics Services (NLS) applied to join UNITE HERE. Workers wanted a union because they had not received raises in two to three years, lacked a fair process to move into permanent employment, dealt with daily disrespect from management, and faced unfair policy changes, like increased hours before overtime is paid.
The same day workers applied for union certification, NLS management intensified its anti-union campaign, hiring a US-based labor relations firm that arranged daily two-hour anti-union meetings, hung huge "vote no" posters in the workplace, and mailed an anti-union DVD to workers' homes.
American Eagle is NLS's largest client and owned and operated the NLS distribution center until early 2006.
"We work hard and want to be treated fairly.We feel insecure about our jobs because of the company's intimidation. We need a union because we have no voice."
-NLS Worker, speaking anonymously for fear of retaliation
This kind of exploitation and intimidation is unacceptable. As members of QueerToday, and the greater queer community, we need to take action on this issue. UNITE HERE has a strong history of working with the LGBT community and supporting LGBT rights. Their group, Sleep With the Right People, is just one way in which UNITE HERE's work has been directly involved in the queer community.
American Eagle is a store that many (certainly not all) queers have worked or shopped at. It is now our responsibility to use that leverage against them. Additionally, American Eagle upholds heteronormativity in their marketing campaigns. From utilizing models that maintain (white) heteronormative beauty standards to actually placing heterosexual coupling in their advertisements as a means to sell their products, American Eagle serves to maintain heterosexual supremacy.
So, what can we do about the messed-up-ness that is American Eagle? First off, learn more about the campaign. Second, take action by writing American Eagle. Third, don't shop there.
Together, we can simultaneously work against heterosexism and anti-labor practices in an evil company.