Is etown shutting down?

No more unionization battles at the beleaguered dot-com; there may be nothing left to organize.

By Katharine Mieszkowski

Published February 14, 2001 8:02PM (EST)

Just three months ago, workers and union sympathizers chanted "etown united!/Will never be defeated!" at a union-organizing rally in front of the dot-com's offices in San Francisco. Now, alas, it appears etown -- a fledgling Web site devoted to consumer electronics reviews -- has been defeated. Not by union-busters, but by the dot-com bust.

According to Medea Benjamin, the founding director of Global Exchange, a nonprofit that occupies office space on the floor above etown in San Francisco's Mission District, the defunct dot-com was in the process of closing its doors on Wednesday. As employees packed up their personal belongings, even the cubicle dividers were being dismantled.

Benjamin learned of the closure from Lew Brown, the president and COO of etown. "The company's investor, Best Buy, pulled the plug on them," she said. Brown refused to comment about etown's demise.

In recent months, the workers at etown's fledgling efforts to bring union power to the dot-com world has created a labor buzz in the dot-com world. Now that most stock options have lost their allure, would a union card become the dot-communist's new must-have? But before the union efforts at etown ever came to a vote, the workers were voted out of a job. It's tough to organize labor when it's on the unemployment line.

If there's any silver lining, it's the $325,000 that etown invested in the grungy building at the corner of 16th and Mission streets where their offices occupied a space above a McDonald's. "We feel sorry for the workers who lost their jobs, but we're celebrating," said Benjamin. In the go-go gentrification days of the dot-com boom, Global Exchange, a crusading international social justice dot-org, had faced losing its office space to the expanding dot-com.

Katharine Mieszkowski

Katharine Mieszkowski is a senior writer for Salon.

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