IKEA factory workers in Virginia are hoping the union is going to save them from unfair wages, long hours and discrimination.
On June 20, employees at the Danville plant filed for a union election with the National Labor Relations Board, in hopes they would get permission to have the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers representing them. They even have an online petition encouraging supporters.
Employees at IKEA have been complaining of the following:
- Overtime, including finding out on Friday nights they have to come in over the weekend or they’ll be punished
- White supremacy in determination of promotions
- Wages of only $8 an hour
- Hiring of lower-paid temporary workers so IKEA doesn’t have to dole out benefits
- Cut pay raises
IKEA agreed to an election date of July 27, but appeared to have rigged the process so the voting pool is 25 short.
The union believes companies drag out election dates so they have as much time as possible to stall while running anti-union propaganda campaigns and firing union backers.
It looks like they may be right. IKEA’s subsidiary, Swedwood, hired the Jackson Lewis law firm, notorious for keeping unions out of companies.
According to reports, Danville IKEA employees were forced to attend anti-union meetings, though a Swedwood spokeswoman, Ingrid Steen, told the LA Times in April, “This wouldn’t be anything that would be approved by the group management in Sweden.”
Swedwood tried to rectify the situation a little bit. It stopped using temp workers, and paid for an outside auditing firm to hear employees’ complaints.
That was the time to do it, but the workers chose not to, out of fear they’d lose their jobs. The only thing the audit proved was that the plant was forcing its employees to work overtime, and the company promised to stop this.
It should be noted that Sweden is one of the most unionized countries in the world, where citizens are practically born into it.
With this in mind, I wonder why IKEA would choose to locate its first factory in a state where you can opt out of the union? Virginia is a right-to-work state.
Arguments have said that in Sweden, where the affordable furniture manufacturer is based, minimum wage is $19 an hour, and they get five weeks of government-mandated vacation.
Remember, this is Europe we’re talking about here. Unlike Americans, they enjoy their long vacations and mid-day siestas.
You also have to factor in Sweden’s high cost of living.
When you’re making furniture that fits in the price range of America’s middle class, you’re bound to make lower wages.
The way I see it, the IKEA workers have two options:
1. Join the union, where you’ll be forced to partake in strikes and it won’t matter whether you’re making $8 or $19 an hour.