Department of Teaching, Learning and Teacher Education


Date of this Version



Social Semiotics (2024)

doi: 10.1080/10350330.2023.2298819


Copyright 2024, Taylor and Francis. Used by permission


Labor unions in the United States have experienced decades of decline, but recent years have seen a rebirth of union campaigns and successes. Because unions are once again becoming a threat to large companies, it is reasonable to assume that efforts to discourage organizing efforts will increase and become even more robust in the near future. Although traditionally, companies have worked to suspend union organizing through captive audience meetings in which unions were discussed via verbal or written modes, more recent means of reaching workers with anti-union messages incorporate a variety of communication strategies to get the message across. As such, this paper examines union-busting videos from six major US companies in order to assess how employers are harnessing the new communication possibilities afforded through film. Findings show three main discourses found in the videos: Unions are a Business, Unions are Restrictive, and Unions are a Threat. The paper undertakes a multimodal analysis to examine the ways new affordances are utilized to communicate these themes and to enhance an affective response in employees. Findings reveal messaging that drew most heavily on the affect of fear, which was used primarily to push employees to dread and ultimately reject a unionized workplace.