Customer Review

82 of 87 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Highly Disturbing, October 19, 2003
This review is from: No Logo: No Space, No Choice, No Jobs (Paperback)
I found this book to be very interesting, and disturbing. Klein is certainly a Leftist, and generally as a conservative I would dispute much of her world-view but with the first half of her book she is on to something. I believe that the second half is less successful, and I do not share her idealization of graffiti artists and anti-global activists, but overall her book is a provacative and important one. Read and beware.
I would like to respond to an earlier reviewer's comments, which many of my friends have directed me to when I told them of the book. Tristan from Australia finds fault with a graph in her book (not indexed for inflation) and then sets to beaking her over the head with it. I think he misses much of the point of her book - even if her graph is off.
There is no question based on anecdotal evidence alone that advertising and the pervasiveness of "branded" space has increased. Look at modern sports stadiums, say the NFL - they're all named after corporations. The athletes at "FedEx Field" are all wearing brands that the team has negotiated (and been paid large sums to wear) - and they can be fined if they aren't wearing a "Starter brand" cap when they sit on the bench, etc. They then sit down and drink a Gatorade, while they watch the Coca-cola sponsored half-time show featuring Michael Jackson, Britney Spears or whoever the company believes they can best get to flog their product. The highlights from the first half will be then shown on the X-brand half-time show, and then recreated using graphics from EA Sports John Madden game. You could avoid all this and go to a movie, but first you'll have to sit through advertisements before the movie - and not just for upcoming movies anymore. First you'll be shushed by Halley Epsenberger while she's cramming Pepsi down your throat - all this after you spent $9.50 to be a captive audience for commercials - at least when you watch basic TV the excuse that the advertising is paying for the programs make sense, but this? And then you can be clever and see how many products have been placed in the movie. If it's James Bond you can see him wearing X-brand watch, drive his BMW, and polish it off with some Tanqueray Gin - not because smooth sophisticates drink it, but because Tanqueray paid the most for it.
As for her other points - she goes into great depth about how we're becoming fungible goods as workers. An example I remember from the book is that Microsoft has a core of permanent employees and true they do make good money, but half of their work is done by temps. And to ensure that temps don't try and claim anything as basic as health coverage (what would they be thinking?) they're required to be laid off for a 30 day period every year so that no one classifies them as full time workers. Walmart does get to keep prices low as the Australian writer suggested, but unlike prior employers who believed they had a responsibility to take care of their workers - e.g. Ford wanted every worker to be able to afford a Ford - Walmart doesn't care whether it's employees can afford to shop their or not. As I know from having done some work for them they're all about keeping employees employed at under 28 hours a week - again so they can keep from having to pay any benefits. Great you say - get another job, but others such as Starbucks have caught on to that and screw their employees similarly. Sure you work 30 hours a week, but the schedule is such that you can't realistically get a job to fill in the time you're not working for them, plus you get to be on unpaid call (I guess for a coffee emergency), and in typical fashion they've even done computerized studies on each employee's productivity. They know each stores peak hours, how many customers x-employee typically serves, etc. - so they can schedule the employees only for the most cost-effective time. On one hand this sounds fair, but on the other - it's completely shafting the employee - especially those that treat it as their "real" job. Given that we're becoming a service based economy, this is getting to be a larger and larger part of the public.
So the Australian guy can carp all he wants about graphs, and he can avoid the point of her argument - which is that advertising has gotten more sophisticated, and insidious - all to help companies, which are shedding any "brick and mortar" connections to become brands and images rather than production (an interesting example - Levis - which no longer owns a single factory, but has outsourced all of its production to third-world factories - which it is not responsible for, and which it can leverage to provide even cheaper and cheaper products - damn the sweatshop employees). I hope he and others are comforted when their jobs disappear and he goes to stand in line at the Hillfiger sponsored Employment office.
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jan 24, 2013 5:17:13 PM PST
M. Anderson says:
You are incredibly misinformed about Starbucks. There's no such thing as "unpaid call," and they do not have "computerized studies on each employee's productivity." I don't know where people come up with these things. Why do you disparage a company that tries to be on the leading edge of employee relations?

Posted on Aug 17, 2013 5:14:30 PM PDT
ElkoJohn says:
Under the global capitalist system,
corporations will pay the least the market will bare in wages and benefits.
So ultimately, people must rescue their governments from the corporations
so that the governments will set the minimum, livable wage and provide
affordable, decent health care, disability, and retirement programs
paid for by taxing the revenues of the corporations
and the assets of the super-wealthy, with employees paying their fair share
of taxes based on income.
Then all corporations will have a level playing field and only have to provide
the base wage for employees to work 40-hours per week.

Posted on Sep 25, 2014 3:09:25 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 25, 2014 3:25:00 PM PDT
Starbucks is nowhere near "on the leading edge of employee relations." Where do people come up with these things? Until they were forced by the National Labor Relations Board into complying with long-established labor law, they decided to ensure there would be no labor union, even locally, for any of their stores. If anyone doubts their tactics were a throwback to the 1920's, here are the case numbers for that particular set of rulings:

2-CA-36394; 2-CA-36900; 2-CA-37020; 2-CA-37109. These are from 2006.

Thus began their campaign of intimidation, threats, and illegal discharges to achieve union-busting. The NLRB findings included that Starbucks had illegally fired two workers solely for encouraging other workers to organize; prohibited sharing union materials, even information--both speech and written--on company property;and prohibited any worker from joining a union on company property. The NLRB also invalidated a national "no-pin" policy, wherein Starbucks banned wearing a union-identified lapel or other pin, specifically an IWW pin (and sent employees home if they refused to remove them), as well as other illegal policies. I only list those few since any worker knows they're egregious violations of federal labor law. They should also know a company can't put you under surveillance in order to monitor your union organizing activities.

Starbucks also entered into an agreement to end threats and surveillance of workers attempting to unionize, as well as bribes, promotions, and other incentives to employees if they refused to join. Of course the corporation didn't admit guilt, as is the standard practice. However, they agreed to post the legal rights of employees in the United States regarding labor organizing.

The cash award was minimal because the IWW worked hard to assist fired workers other jobs. In other words, they not only helped to save workers' incomes, they even saved Starbucks money. I doubt the corporation appreciates it.

You'd think after that, the company would have found god and cleaned up its act, but the temptation to bully and intimidate workers--low paid workers with no benefits--in order to get even more money than they already do with their absurdly-priced, cheaply-produced, coffee simulation has been too much to overcome. Cases have subsequently gone to the NLRB in the U.S., and one complaint to OSHA from a Manhattan store found serious violations of employee safety. What people in "good" jobs have to understand is that these federal agencies' standards of proof are very high. Corporations are found guilty only with stronger evidence than you'd need in any criminal court. It's not as though wild-eyed dirty pinkos have taken over, regardless of what a significant minority of crazy people think.

The best you can say about the corporation is that there have been fewer U.S. cases filed. But that doesn't mean it ceased the worst of its practices in other countries. They're still intimidating and firing employees in Europe and Latin America--most recently in Chile. Yes, people drink coffee on other continents, especially in those which actually produce the stuff, i.e., Latin America and Africa. Other countries have long-standing cultures of fine coffee, too, such as Italy, which essentially "invented" everything at Starbucks, only better-brewed and better-tasting. People who watched "The Sopranos" know how much this incensed Paulie Walnuts, and who could blame him?

I started looking into this Starbucks thing about the first time they hit California. We had terrific local coffeehouses and individual roasters in my city which were suddenly losing business. My favorite owner said customers were checking out the new Starbucks on such-and-such a street, but he figured the fad would die down soon. Besides, the regulars were still coming by for the usual good coffee and political arguments, philosophical and religious solutions to solve all the world's problems, friendship, and separate tables to avoid all of that. A few years later, as customers were dropping off, I decided to check out this relatively new company to learn what they had that our regular haunt didn't.

There was no longer one store; there were five in midtown alone for me to choose from. Moreover, Starbucks was the trendy place to go, where self-congratulatory, upscale "liberals" went to grab a cup of $7 coffee and dash back out. (Self-disclosure: I'm a leftist, and have actually worked for a living. My parents didn't pay for my higher education nor give me a down payment on a house for my wedding present. Now you know my bias, as you know Publius', the reviewer.) The coffee wasn't bad; the barista very friendly. There were muffins and sandwiches, although made offsite.

But there was a tip jar. Since no one else was in earshot, I asked her about it. How was she paid, and how much? (Fifty cents above minimum, no individual tipping.) The shift supervisor shared in tips, but Starbucks called him management, and he was paid more. I asked if she were a college student. (No, divorced single mother, one son, working two part-time jobs, saving to go to community college but work hours made it impossible right then.)

I have some rules of thumb. When a business has a nearly all female and/or all black and Latino workforce, you can bet your life this isn't a well-paying job, especially if management is more than 50% white guys. That's not an imaginary liberal view; it's a simple fact. Moreover, if someone is both preparing the food, and serving the food, yet not really doing either, that's management's way of saying: We don't want to pay you a line cook's wages, but we don't want you to get good tips like a server does. I knew from one transaction, a matter of under ten minutes, that:

1. this was not a good place to work, and
2. Starbucks the mega-corporation would demolish every local coffeehouse, just as Home Depot, and later Loew's, killed our best local hardware stores.

She was pretty happy for her job, however, because she needed it, and it wasn't nearly as bad as the sewing factory that went out of business where she last worked full time. When did the American worker begin to be grateful for underemployment, no benefits, low pay, and the simple self-respect and dignity that comes from work? Why do we still settle for that?

Naturally, there weren't enough regulars to keep my guy in business, and it shut down about two years later. He was the last local to go. The Starbucks chain opened more stores in the city, even one on the edge of our lowest income neighborhoods.

If this is "the leading edge of employee relations," our middle class will be destroyed. It's nearly there, frankly.

M. Anderson, you've written no reviews. You have an Amazon Wish List, which contains solely hardcore Christian dogma. If your church does some feeding of the poor, or teaching people to read, good for them. But it takes a committed government to effect real change among all the people across this land. I don't think you see that, since I suspect you're one of the ultra-right, fundamentalist group of new conservatives. What I do see is that wherever you got your beliefs about Starbucks was an inauthentic source.

Note to Publius: People such as you and I used to be able to mutually see the problems, strongly disagree about the solutions, and come to a mutual understanding and compromise to solve them that both of us could support. There was even a time when each party had a conservative, moderate, and liberal faction within them. I don't think the latter will ever exist again, but I can always hope there will be a revival of the "loyal opposition" such as you to continue to grow this nation together.
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