�Lauren Coleman-lochner, with Cynthia Kim and Annie Lee
▶ ▶ The SEIU campaign to raise wages is working, but the union still faces an existential crisis ▶ ▶ “We can’t survive in a world where the oxygen is being cut off”
outpost opened on March 9 in Tokyo’s Shinjuku neighborhood.
Initially, Burt’s Bees loyalists worried Clorox would strip it of its authenticity. But the brand has held on to its all-natural cachet and grown steadily. Its co-founder, Burt Shavitz, died in July 2015, but his likeness will remain on products, the company says.
Sales have increased at least twice as fast as those for the parent company overall. Today Burt’s Bees accounts for 4 percent of Clorox’s sales, which last year totaled $5.7 billion. In the last fiscal year, 82 percent of total sales came from the U.S.
Dorer is looking for 10 percent to 15 percent growth in Burt’s Bees’ sales, compared with 3 percent to 5 percent for Clorox overall. Oru Mohiuddin, a beauty analyst at Euromonitor International in London, says competition from such brands as L’occitane and Weleda is strong, but having babycare products and being priced in between mass and premium brands gives Burt’s Bees a niche. And there’s a lot of unmet potential, she says. In the U. S., where its largest distributors are big-box retailers like Walmart and Target, “the positioning was not to its best interest,” Mohiuddin says. Given its natural ingredients, she says, the company could have marketed the brand as an upscale product early on. Clorox says selling through mass retailers has driven growth.
Whether U.S. customers would spend more for the balms and lotions is unclear. Candy Leung, in Hong Kong, is happy to pay a premium. She was introduced to the products while visiting family members in the U. S. “If I need it, I buy it.”
Increase in visitors in the final three months of 2015 vs. a year earlier at Whistler Blackcomb. The Vancouver-area ski resort says a snowy winter and a weak Canadian dollar brought more people to the slopes.
By 2020 there will be a $15 minimum wage in effect for fast-food workers in New York City, for employees of large companies in Seattle, and for all workers in Los Angeles. On March 28, California Governor Jerry Brown announced a deal to make the $15 wage standard throughout the state by 2022. Last year, Democrats in Congress proposed making $15 the national starting wage, replacing the $7.25 federal minimum that prevails today.
None of that would have been possible without the union-conceived Fight for $15, a four-year-old effort that’s been organized labor’s most effective political campaign in recent memory. “On the political level, it’s definitely working,” says Vincent Vernuccio, who directs labor policy for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a Michiganbased free-market think tank. The Fight for $15 was the brainchild of the Service Employees International Union, the second-largest in the U.S., many of whose 1.9 million members work for local or state government or in taxpayer-funded health-care jobs. Since 2012, SEIU has sunk millions of dollars into the Fight for $15 to pressure fast-food corporations to allow unionization, lobby elected officials to pass higher wage laws, and support worker walkouts and mass demonstrations.
SEIU’S president, Mary Kay Henry, is gambling that the Fight for $15 will help save her organization, which like all U.S. unions faces serious threats to its future. Henry says increasing standards for the worst-paid workers is bolstering her members’ efforts to win bigger raises. SEIU leaders also believe pressure on fast-food corporations will eventually yield a deal that covers millions of workers, improves their lives, and includes a funding mechanism for the campaign to continue— even if the result doesn’t look like a traditional union. “We bargain in the way we know how,” Henry says. “We’re also taking risks in building a movement that’s going to birth the next form of worker power.”
Unions are in a weaker position today than they’ve been in decades. In February, West Virginiag became the fourth state inn as many years to passss a law letting workers inn the private sector optt out of paying union fees,ees, even if they’re coveredvered by union-negotiatedted contracts. A 2014 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court banned mandaandatory union fees foror Medicaidfunded home-health alth aides,aides SEIU’S fastest-growing membership group.
On March 29, the court issued a split 4-4 ruling in a case challenging
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