In anticipation of Earth Day, “ethical” clothing line Everlane has launched promotions for its new organic cotton tee-shirts with advertisements featuring iconic tee shirt wearers like Marlon Brando, Mr. T, and Gloria Steinem, which would all be pretty standard social-consciousness glazed capitalism fare had Everlane not just been in the news for union-busting and were Steinem not famous in part for her organizing efforts.
In early April, Everlane’s customer experience team reported that they were laid off en masse after announcing plans to unionize. The employees spent months getting a majority of team members’ signatures and officially presented Everlane CEO Michael Preysman with a letter asking for voluntary recognition of their efforts. Four days later, 42 of those employees, including the most vocal union supporters, were laid off, according to the Verge.
Meanwhile, in addition to being a best-selling author, feminist activist, and Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient, Steinem is a founding member of The Coalition of Labor Union Women, an organization founded with the goal of encouraging more women to join and create labor unions, which battles discrimination against women of all races in both the workplace and in other unions. She’s also long been a proponent of Everlane, including the company on a list of “Trump-free” companies—businesses that do not donate to the Trump campaign or have connections with the family and thus are worthy of dollars from her ethically-minded following. Steinem also appeared in a video series sponsored by Everlane called “Human Heroes,” but the new campaign is Steinem’s first time posing for an actual Everlane advertisement.
Judging from the brief video posted to Everlane’s Instagram account, it’s difficult to gauge Steinem’s involvement with the campaign; the featured photographs of Steinem are decades old. However, in another, sponsored, ad, a more recent image of Steinem seems to depict her wearing the brand’s “Men’s Organic Long-Sleeve Pocket Tee,” which retails for $22, or six dollars more than a member of Everlane’s customer experience team would have been paid per hour had they not been laid off.
In response to reports that the firings were intended to prevent employees from unionizing, Preysman insisted that, despite Everlane’s origins as a direct-to-consumer brand, layoffs were actually just a response to store closings in light of covid-19 orders. “Firing as a form of union busting is unethical and illegal,” the message read. Employees are challenging this narrative and threatening legal action if jobs are not reinstated.
Jezebel has reached out to Steinem for comment and will update when we receive a response.