Lululemon Workers Unionizing, Probably Not Too Concerned About Who John Galt Is
Once upon a time, in 2011, there was a sudden and unsettling onslaught of athleisure-clad rich white ladies running to their yoga classes carrying tote bags reading "Who Is John Galt?"
Why? Well, it turned out it was because Lululemon founder and all-around nightmare person Chip Wilson was super obsessed with Ayn Rand and Atlas Shrugged, which is such a "guy nicknamed 'Chip'" way to be.
According to a blog post published on their site at the time:
You might be wondering why a company that makes yoga clothing has chosen a legendary literary character’s name to adorn the side of our bags. lululemon’s founder, Chip Wilson, first read this book when he was eighteen years old working away from home. Only later, looking back, did he realize the impact the book’s ideology had on his quest to elevate the world from mediocrity to greatness (it is not coincidental that this is lululemon’s company vision). [...]
In “Atlas Shrugged,” Ayn Rand describes a society where people work and reside in government-controlled environments that are tightly regimented. Without realizing it, this control created a society of mediocrity; propagating a cycle of listless, uninspired existing as opposed to living. The character John Galt encouraged all of the world’s innovators and intelligent minds to go on strike from the increasingly controlling government in order to create a vacuum of brilliance, proving that independent creativity and free-will is critical for quality of life.
Now, as big a fan as Ayn Rand was of "job creators" going on strike, she was less fond of labor unions doing so, and of labor unions in general, due to the "artificially high wages" they imposed upon the economy and their support of things like minimum wage laws and other things that made it really hard for "the world's innovators and intelligent minds" to become as absurdly wealthy as they might like. Chip Wilson, similarly, is also not a big fan of unions.
So he may be disappointed to find out that the workers at one of their Washington DC stores have decided to organize.
Under the name of the “Association of Concerted Educators" (Lululemon sales associates are called "educators" within the company), the workers filed a petition for a union election with the National Labor Relations board on Wednesday. If successful, this would make the Georgetown location the very first of Lululemon's 315 stores in the US to unionize.
On the Twitter page for the union, workers wrote that the company's "core values of personal responsibility, entrepreneurship, honesty, courage, connection, fun and inclusion" led them to this decision. They are demanding "more collaboration, more transparency, more pay transparency," and "more equitable pay structures."
This comes after years of complaints about the company's labor practices.
Lululemon workers at all levels of the company have reported having to work under abusive conditions in recent years. Workers in their brick and mortar stores have said that there is a “cultlike” culture of “toxic positivity” within the company, despite the fact that the company touts being inclusive.
One worker told Insider in 2021 that, partially because the company’s corporate staff was largely white and able-bodied, non-white workers often felt subjugated or left out. One Asian American worker who formerly worked in a Minnesota location said that her manager would sometimes insinuate that the non-white workers at the store weren’t as enthusiastic as their white counterparts. Lululemon has denied these claims.
So good for them! And also good for me because now I can feel less weird about the fact that I really do love the Lululemon leggings I won in a raffle one time.
And what Chip Wilson thinks about this doesn't really matter. Wilson hasn't been in charge of or involved with Lululemon for a while now, having officially stepped off of the board in 2015 following a number of major PR blunders, including an incident in which, when speaking of a line of leggings that had to be recalled after they were found to be sheer (leading to some pretty embarrassing yoga studio moments), he said that the real problem was that women have thighs.
Also unionizing? Planned Parenthood. Workers at clinics in Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, and both Dakotas this week voted to unionize, a move which many hope will make it easier for them to keep staff around and protect access to reproductive health care in these areas.
\u201cWe spoke to workers about why their union drive is so critical to protecting reproductive health care.\u201d— More Perfect Union (@More Perfect Union) 1658440473
According to the NLRB, there has been a massive uptick in petitions for union elections in the last year, with a 58 percent increase over last year's numbers at the third quarter. By May of this year, there were already more petitions than there were in all of 2021, which is pretty amazing.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse