North America's Strongest Union

Welcome to the 3rd World: Danville, VA

The giant Swedish retailer Ikea now cuts labor costs by moving its factory from Eastern Europe to Virginia.

That's right, Danville, Va., USA. Where right-to-work laws make collective bargaining difficult. Where taxpayers sacrificed $12 million to attract a bottom-feeding, union-busting foreign multinational.

The Los Angeles Times reports

Workers complain of eliminated raises, a frenzied pace and mandatory overtime. Several said it's common to find out on Friday evening that they'll have to pull a weekend shift, with disciplinary action for those who can't or don't show up....

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.

Starting pay at the factory is $8 an hour. A union-avoidance law firm is fighting an organizing drive. Six African-American workers filed discrimination complaints. Overtime is mandatory and ordered at the last minute. A third of the workers are temporary and receive no benefits.

The conflict in Danville is front-page news in Sweden, where Ikea is headquartered. The Times reports workers in Sweden can't understand it.

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...

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.

Oh, and IKEA's CEO is either the richest or one of the richest men in the world. Wikipedia reports Ingvar Kamprad is worth as much as $90 billion. That's equivalent to the entire Gross Domestic Product of Bangladesh, which has a population of 162 million people.

Ikea's unionized Canadian workers have it better than their Danville counterparts. Teamsters Local 213 represents workers at IKEA's store in Richmond, B.C. There they have a five-year contract. Base hourly wages range from $11.10 to $21.09 an hour. They have shift differentials, a fair job posting procedure, established breaks, and if there's a mistake in a paycheck the workers get four-hours of overtime pay for picking up the check.

The Richmond store is why Local 313 is trying to organize another Ikea in Coquitlam, B.C. The Danville store is why Teamsters are fighting union-busting in Wisconsin, Ohio and all over the country.