Book Review: No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies, by Naomi Klein

 

Reviewed by Bruce Rhodes

 

No Logo takes the reader behind the scenes to the sweatshops of the Philippines and elsewhere, to learn the conditions under which much of our clothing and footwear are made. Author Naomi Klein paints a picture of big brand-oriented corporations from North America and Europe making large profits, while these firms squeeze both the upstream workers  -- typically young Asian women putting in 12 hour days at as little as 13 cents an hour – and the downstream clerks at retail, who usually earn little better than minimum wage and, when set up (as they usually are) as part-time staff, are entitled to few if any benefits. Klein alleges that the police and army in many third world countries are co-opted by the multinationals, and are instructed to crush worker dissent and drives for unionization. Free trade zones in China, Mexico, Indonesia and elsewhere are filled with anonymous factories in which workers often spend 70 to 90 hours a week, without overtime pay, sewing designer labels on products that are heavily advertised in the countries whose citizens can afford to buy those products.

 

Klein, in this well-researched book, describes the growing unrest among activists, consumers, and even city councils and state legislatures in North America and Western Europe, who are increasingly dissatisfied with multinational corporate behavior in respect to poor working conditions and low pay for the factory employees, disregard for the environment in which factories are built, and the pervasive marketing efforts to sell products back home, often to disenfranchised young people in poor urban settings. In particular, Klein relates stories of corporate-citizen clashes that involve Nike, Shell Oil, and McDonald’s restaurants. Other companies discussed include Starbucks, Exxon, and Tommy Hilfiger.

 

In the spirit of Saul Alinsky’s landmark book Rules for Radicals, Klein relates many of the tactics used by anti-corporate movements to shame these firms into behaving more responsibly and, in other cases, to twist the messages that companies deliver for their brands so that the public gets a fuller picture of, say, the uncomfortable and sometimes hazardous working conditions suffered by the child labourers in Pakistan making soccer balls for kids in the West.

 

Persons interested in social justice will want to read this book. The message of No Logo is quite consistent with that of the excellent Canadian documentary The Corporation, which in turn is based on the book of the same name by Joel Bakan.