Ikea: Workers’ Complaints Surround Ikea’s U.S. Factory
I find this article very interesting in this milieu of union-busting Republicans and low wage jobs. Unions have a place in this society because they establish a floor for worker compensation and benefits. Without them you get what you see at this Ikea plant. You should also pay close attention to the wages earned by workers, for Ikea, in Sweden, where unions are alive and well. Has the US become what we claim to abhor? Namely, a third world country where companies build manufacturing plants where workers are paid crumbs and have no worker protections…all in the name of higher corporate profits for a wealthy few?
Politics and policies matter…
The dust-up has garnered little attention in the U.S. But it’s front-page news in Sweden, where much of the labor force is unionized and Ikea is a cherished institution. Per-Olaf Sjoo, the head of the Swedish union in Swedwood factories, said he was baffled by the friction in Danville. Ikea’s code of conduct, known as IWAY, guarantees workers the right to organize and stipulates that all overtime be voluntary.
“Ikea is a very strong brand and they lean on some kind of good Swedishness in their business profile. That becomes a complication when they act like they do in the United States,” said Sjoo. “For us, it’s a huge problem.”
Laborers in Swedwood plants in Sweden produce bookcases and tables similar to those manufactured in Danville. The big difference is that the Europeans enjoy a minimum wage of about $19 an hour and a government-mandated five weeks of paid vacation. Full-time employees in Danville start at $8 an hour with 12 vacation days — eight of them on dates determined by the company.
What’s more, as many as one-third of the workers at the Danville plant have been drawn from local temporary-staffing agencies. These workers receive even lower wages and no benefits, employees said.
Swedwood’s Steen said the company is reducing the number of temps, but she acknowledged the pay gap between factories in Europe and the U.S. “That is related to the standard of living and general conditions in the different countries,” Steen said.
Bill Street, who has tried to organize the Danville workers for the machinists union, said Ikea was taking advantage of the weaker protections afforded to U.S. workers.
“It’s ironic that Ikea looks on the U.S. and Danville the way that most people in the U.S. look at Mexico,” Street said.
- Ikea’s Third World outsourcing adventure — in the U.S. (salon.com)
- Sweden exports sweatshops: Ikea’s first American factory (boingboing.net)
- Workers’ Rights: Is Ikea’s U.S. Factory One Big, Fat, Racist, Modern-Day Sweatshop? (curbed.com)
- Workers of America unite! (brobrubel.wordpress.com)
- IKEA Exploiting American Workers (alternet.org)
- Worker Complaints at US Factory Darken IKEA’s Image Design News 4.11.2011 (apartmenttherapy.com)