�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”

Bloomberg Businessweek (North America) - - Companies / Industries -

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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