Thursday, October 20, 2005

Blackspot shoes

The Unswoosher features everything that made the Blackspot Sneaker great – it's made in a safe, comfortable union factory with environmentally sound, all-vegetarian materials, including 100% organic hemp uppers. But for the boot we’ve been able to take things even farther with soles made from reclaimed used tires. They look pretty wicked, and it’s a great way to take a bite out of an over-abundant waste material. Order online, or stop by a local Blackspot retailer to try them on in person.

Who We Are
The Blackspot Anticorporation and the Blackspot Shoes
venture are projects of Adbusters Media Foundation.
CEO: Kalle Lasn
Creative Director: Mike Simons
Producer: Paul Shoebridge
Marketing Manager: Sharon Cohen
Campaign Coordinator: Leigh Ratcliff
Production Manager: Robin Webb
Designer: John Fluevog
Website Designer: Mihai Wilson
Advertising Agency: PowerShift
Hemp Supplier: Ecolution

Our Mission
Our mission is to establish a worldwide consumer cooperative and to reassert consumer sovereignty over capitalism. We hope this blackspot sneaker venture is the beginning of a new era in ethical, worker-friendly, environmentally friendly production in the shoe industry.

The Shoes
The classic Blackspot Sneaker and v2.0: The Unswoosher are both designed by John Fluevog, known for his cutting edge innovativeness and flair. The shoes comply with vegan standards, and are being monitored by Robin Webb of Vegetarian Shoes in the UK. Robin is an industry leader dedicated to the production of ethical footwear. Blackspots are sold only in independently owned retail stores worldwide.

We're using 100% organic hemp, which is processed with natural methods such as water retting, eliminating the need to use chemicals. The Blackspot Sneaker has a rubber sole and a toe cap that is 70% biodegradable, whereas The Unswoosher has a sole made from recovered car tires. We're not currently using water-based glues, as they lack permanence so shoe longevity suffers. The white anti-logo and the red splotches are hand-painted, and the soles are stitched, glued and embedded for extra durability.

The Profits
Yes, Blackspot Shoes is a for-profit venture — we wouldn't have it
any other way. (View the cost breakdown for v2.0: The Unswoosher.) Profits let us do what the shoe has always promised. For round one, we'll launch our TV campaign, and if any network refuses to sell us airtime, we'll haul them into court. Then, if this recycled-tire, organic-hemp Unshwoosher really takes off as a new kind of cool in the sneaker industry, we'll use every penny of profit on kick-ass social campaigns and anti-corporate marketing. The best part is that it'll be up to the shareholders of The Blackspot Anticorporation to brainstorm and decide on how we do it. Do we go after McDonald's with spots on the Food Network? Do we target ExxonMobil with full-page ads in The New York Times? Or maybe we launch an anti-trust lawsuit against Viacom, or we put our money into Blackspot startups in other industries, like those featured on .

The Factory
The Blackspot Shoes factory is located in a rural region of Portugal called Felgueiras, an area steeped in 400 years of shoe-making tradition. The factory has been owned and operated by the same family for three generations. The owners have a reputation for being excellent employers. Although many of the employees in the factory have cars, others are often seen walking home through vineyards and olive groves, waving to bosses and neighbors as they pass. Felgueiras is a friendly place. There is almost no crime. Many who live there have lived there all their lives.

Factory machinery is new and updated. The work pace is good, as is air quality. The premises are big, wide, well lit. Sound level compliance is strictly enforced. Music is audible wherever you go. A model factory, according to the head union rep, with a near-perfect safety record. All safety equipment is available and checked.

The work day is from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., with 1 1/2 hours for lunch (no coffee breaks). Overtime is not compulsory, and is generously paid. (Usually only the more senior workers, such as designers and samplers, will work overtime). The first hour of overtime is remunerated at time and a half, then time plus 75% thereafter.

Portugal has a national medical plan for all its citizens. A doctor visits the factory twice a week, and workers are entitled to unlimited free consultations.

The minimum wage in Portugal is 365 Euros per month. Workers in this factory earn between 420 and 700 Euros per month, depending on their job and seniority. In addition to basic salary, workers receive 25 paid days off and two extra months of pay per year, which works out to 35% above minimum wage.

The Union
Union dues are 1% of the members' salaries, and about 40% of the workers are registered. Not everyone chooses to belong to the union, as they don't see any need for it. The union gets involved in wage negotiations where necessary, and provides workers with legal representation when required, but is mostly there to provide protection from unfair dismissals. However, no-one has ever been unfairly dismissed in this factory, according to the workers we spoke with in private.

The workers told us that this factory is one of the best in Portugal. They also told us that the only factories in Portugal that are 100% union are those under foreign ownership, where workers feel more vulnerable than they do working for local or community based employers.

We met with employees who belong to the union; we met with workers who liaison between employees and the union (shop stewards); we met with union staff and staff of the government-run umbrella organization that administers the union. All meetings were in private. All the people we interviewed were unequivocal in their praise of the factory. A high degree of transparency was evident.
If you'd like to know more, contact us at The Blackspot Anticorporation.


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