BUSINESS
11/30/2012 12:04 pm ET Updated Dec 03, 2012

'Unionmade' Clothing Maker Receives Cease-And-Desist Letter From American Unions

The leading federation for organized labor has sent a stern cease-and-desist letter to "Unionmade," the trendy apparel maker whose products, it turns out, are often not union-made.

The letter from the AFL-CIO calls out the San Francisco-based clothing company for "misleading" its customers with its name and also for potentially violating the AFL-CIO's trademark handshake logo.

"The AFL-CIO finds your use of the UNIONMADE mark highly misleading as the dictionary definition and understanding amongst the public is that 'union-made' means 'produced by workers belonging to a labor union,'" the letter reads.

The letter, which was dated Nov. 29 and sent by the AFL-CIO's outside legal counsel, urges Unionmade company officials to "see Dictionary.com" for more details.

The AFL-CIO's request comes on the heels of an expose earlier this month at Gawker, where Hamilton Nolan reported that most of the company's vintage-style t-shirts, jeans and other hipster getup are in fact not made by unionized workers. As the piece noted, in an era when organized labor's numbers are on the decline, plenty of socially conscious consumers are happy to pay a premium for goods they believe to be made in the U.S. by decently paid employees.

"We would never have heard of them, except for the fact that twice in the past few months we have gotten emails from people who were excited to finally go out and shop at a store that supports unions, only to have those illusions shattered," Nolan wrote.

As Unionmade informed one disappointed shopper, the company's name shouldn't be considered a literal description of the products it sells -- more a conceit that takes liberties with the traditional meaning of "union made." "The name UNIONMADE is an overarching concept and narrative for the store, signifying that we strive to carry well made and aesthetically timeless goods," the company wrote the customer, according to Gawker.

Setting aside the brand name's insinuations, there's also the matter of Unionmade's logo, which treads quite closely to the AFL-CIO's own handshake logos, both of which are registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The AFL-CIO's letter goes so far as to accuse Unionmade of "fraud," given that its logo says "registered" but isn't registered with the patent office. (The company's logo includes no registration number.)

"Extensive goodwill is associated with the AFL-CIO’s handshake emblem, and the AFL-CIO intends to protect and defend its valuable intellectual property vigorously," the letter reads.

The AFL-CIO also suggests that Unionmade change its company name, "or at least make it very clear to consumers that, despite the store name, most of the items in your store are not actually 'union-made.'"

Unionmade officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

(Flickr photo by OKViydo.)

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