One Small Business Turns the Tables on a Union Campaign

wichita subaru

One small business in Kansas has turned the tables on a local union’s aggressive campaign against it.

A Wichita, Kansas, carpenter’s union recently took umbrage with the fact that a local Subaru dealer did not hire union help to build its new showroom. The union put up a sign in front of the dealership that read: “Shame on Subaru of Wichita.”

The union has apparently tried similar tactics with churches, businesses and non-profit organizations in the Wichita area.

Rather than allow the union to have the last word, the Subaru dealer turned the potential public relations nightmare on its head. The dealer displayed its own sign right next to the union’s sign. It read: “For Having Unbeatable Prices.”

In a post on Subaru of Wichita’s official blog RideHomeHappy, the company stated it’s own case explaining:

“We invite you to consider the facts and decide for yourself if Subaru of Wichita is “Desecrating the American Way of Life,” as the Carpenters Local 201 claims:

–We hired Wichita-based Key Construction, Inc.

–We hired Wichita-based GLMV Architecture

–We financed through Wichita-based Equity Bank

–Our company employs 140+ Witchita-based Employees

Key Construction bid out the drywall portion of this project to several companies, both union and non-union. The project was awarded to the lowest qualified bid and completed well before protesters arrived.”

This is a good lesson for any small business on how to make the most out of a seemingly bad situation. It’s hard to imagine anything worse or more intimidating than a crowd of protesters outside your business. But Wichita Subaru found a way to take lemons and make lemonade.

The company took a potentially volatile situation and turned it into a great marketing opportunity, and did so with humor and flair.

In fact, so effective was the overall impact that at least one commenter on a Washington Post column mentioning the incident doubted there was even a real labor dispute at all. Instead, the suspicion was raised that the whole protest was nothing but a “gimmick” created by the dealership to increase sales.


Joshua Sophy Joshua Sophy is the Editor for Small Business Trends and the Head of Content Partnerships. A journalist with 20 years of experience in traditional and online media, he is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists. He founded his own local newspaper, the Pottsville Free Press, covering his hometown.

4 Reactions
  1. This is a great story. We had the same sign go up when we were building out office space in Colorado. Local news stories tried to approach the union but no one would answer questions. The union is very frustrating and there is not a lot small businesses can do about it. Great to see a company turn the situation.

  2. While I know that they need to do that to be able to get business, I think that it is a wrong way of doing it. It is somehow a form of bullying. It is like telling them to “hire them or else”. It is not a good sight.

  3. Brilliant! Many would try to hide and deny that there was a problem. These guys picked up the ball and ran with it. You have got to admire people that can turn a problem into a positive like this, and get so much publicity at the same time.

    Great Marketing!

    Graham Apolony
    Big Note Marketing