POLITICS

Everlane's Customer Service Workers Are Unionizing

The part-time employees, who work remotely and don’t get benefits, say they want “adequate compensation, protection and support.”

Customer service workers with clothing brand Everlane are unionizing, organizers announced on Friday

In a mission statement posted on Twitter, the team of part-time remote employees said that the San Francisco-based company treats them as “expendable.” The team of around 65 people, mostly women, make around $16 an hour and don’t receive health care or other benefits, reported Vice.

The customer experience workers help Everlane’s over 2 million customers with requests around orders, including clothing fit recommendations, tracking lost packages and more. In their unionization efforts, employees are asking for fair wages, medical leave and paid time off, and predictable work schedules that allow them to balance this part-time employment with other jobs, among other demands.

“We believe that a company as invested in social responsibility and sustainable pathways as Everlane can extend that investment within their own labor force,” organizers’ mission statement reads, noting they are unionizing with Communications Workers of America

Everlane’s website boasts of its “radical transparency” and “ethical” clothing production, describing how it reveals “the true costs behind all of our products—from materials to labor to transportation.” Its Twitter bio reads in part: “Here if you need customer service or if you just want to talk.”

Several employees who are unionizing, and one who recently quit, described to Vice a stressful work environment, including low pay, unpredictable schedules, and notably different work conditions from full-time employees in the San Francisco office, who have in-office massages, free lunch and more. 

Everlane said in a statement to HuffPost that it believes in “transparency and the right of all of our employees to be heard.”

“We missed the mark in this instance, and regret that. We need to do a better job communicating with our remote team and offering them more opportunities,” the company said. “We are working quickly to improve their experience, including offering full-time roles and creating a clearer path for continued conversation. We’re working to do better.”

When asked if Everlane supports workers’ unionization efforts, the company said: “We respect employee choice and we support the fact that our employees have the right and freedom to choose whether or not union representation is right for them.”  

In an email to staffers Thursday, obtained by Vice, Everlane’s head of human resources Kelly McLaughlin appeared to try to discourage workers from unionizing, writing: “Signing is a major step because it is a legal document that can designate the union as your exclusive representative and forfeit your right to deal directly with us to resolve issues ... This will reduce transparency and we won’t be able to work with each of you individually as we do now to improve your experience.”

In fact, unionized workplaces include bargaining committees with both workers and union representatives who negotiate the terms of a contract with company management. Such contracts, written to reflect employees’ needs, can include language around how and when employees want union representatives to intervene or negotiate with management on their behalf.

Everlane’s customer experience team announced its unionization efforts just days before Christmas, amid the peak holiday ordering season. Organizers told Vice they were “strongly discouraged” from taking time off at Christmas. 

Earlier this month, the CEO of luggage company Away stepped down after a damning report in The Verge detailed mistreatment of staff at the company, including CEO Steph Korey at one point telling the customer experience team they couldn’t take more paid time off, calling it a “career development opportunity.” 

Meanwhile, presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) recently laid out a plan to help part-time workers by forcing companies to make their schedules more predictable.

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