Leave it to the Wall Street Journal to manufacture tensions between old-line union activists and their younger counterparts.
The headline over this WSJ article is “Labor Activists Get Fashionable—to the Chagrin of Old-Line Unionists.”
John Elward, a truck driver for United Parcel Service Inc. near San Francisco, collects labor union memorabilia. He owns at least 12 Teamsters jackets, his favorite being a green one labeled “Irish American.” Then there are his dozens of union pins and patches.
So when organizers in April became the first to unionize an Amazon.com Inc. facility, the 42-year-old Mr. Elward grew excited. Several of the leaders seemed to have a flair for fashion—not something typically associated with labor activism.
Chris Smalls, the activist who led the organizing drive at Amazon, wore a red baseball cap, red sweats and hoodie and a red “Amazon Labor Union” shirt on top that day, all finished with a pair of oversize sunglasses. Pictures of his outfit went viral.
At the Time 100 gala two months later, Mr. Smalls went with black overalls and a black blazer, along with a bandanna and huge black shades. For an appearance on “The Daily Show,” he donned a bubble gum-pink Amazon Labor Union shirt and a printed baby blue bomber jacket.
Mr. Elward, whose grandfather once headed a local branch of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, had already noticed more style creeping into labor activism. He launched the Twitter account “Dripped Out Trade Unionists”—using hip-hop slang for ultrafashionable—to chronicle the sartorial leanings of retail employees, machine operators, engineers and other workers.
He now has about 30,000 followers and regularly gets messages from workers sending him snapshots of their outfits or asking things such as, “Where can I get that jacket?”
The article does quote two old-line union organizers who aren’t so much into fashion, but the main criticism from them seems to not be about being too fashionable, but rather they caution against wearing clothes so ostentatiously expensive that you give the impression to management that you make “too much” money.
But that is a far cry from there being tensions in union ranks over something as stupid as clothing.