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  1. #1
    Frumious Bandersnatch RandomGuy's Avatar
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    A company has outsourced some jobs to meet demand in a place where people are just happy to have a job, and has made some pretty harsh demands on their low-paid workers, with mandatory overtime.

    That company? Ikea. They have hired a bunch of Americans, who want to unionize for better pay and working conditions, but the company is fighting it tooth and nail.


    Ikea's U.S. factory churns out unhappy workers

    A union-organizing battle hangs over the Ikea plant in Virginia. Workers complain of eliminated raises, a frenzied pace, mandatory overtime and racial discrimination.


    Reporting from Danville, Va. When home furnishing giant Ikea selected this fraying blue-collar city to build its first U.S. factory, residents couldn't believe their good fortune.

    Beloved by consumers worldwide for its stylish and affordable furniture, the Swedish firm had also constructed a reputation as a good employer and solid corporate citizen. State and local officials offered $12 million in incentives. Residents thrilled at the prospect of a respected foreign company bringing jobs to this former textile region after watching so many flee overseas.

    But three years after the massive facility opened here, excitement has waned. Ikea is the target of racial discrimination complaints, a heated union-organizing battle and turnover from disgruntled employees.

    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.

    Kylette Duncan, among the plant's first hires, quit after six months to take a lower-paying retail job. "I need money as bad as anybody, but I also need a life," said Duncan, 52. She recalled having to cancel medical appointments for her ailing husband because she had to work overtime at the last minute.

    Some of the Virginia plant's 335 workers are trying to form a union. The International Assn. of Machinists and Aerospace Workers said a majority of eligible employees had signed cards expressing interest.

    In response, the factory part of Ikea's manufacturing subsidiary, Swedwood hired the law firm Jackson Lewis, which has made its reputation keeping unions out of companies. Workers said Swedwood officials required employees to attend meetings at which management discouraged union membership.

    Plant officials didn't return calls and declined to meet with a Times reporter who visited the Virginia facility. Swedwood spokeswoman Ingrid Steen in Sweden called the situation in Danville "sad" but said she could not discuss the complaints of specific employees. She said she had heard "rumors" about anti-union meetings at the plant but added that "this wouldn't be anything that would be approved by the group management in Sweden."

    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 ins ution. 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.

    The Swedwood factory is situated on the outskirts of Danville, in the midst of rolling tobacco country, just north of the North Carolina border.

    For most of the last century the town of 45,000 relied on textiles and tobacco for jobs. Today the riverfront is lined with empty red brick warehouses and crumbling mills. With the unemployment rate high currently at 10.1% the city has put muscle behind attracting new companies, including Ikea.

    "They've definitely given jobs to people that desperately needed them here," city manager Joe King said.

    Swedwood says it chose Danville to cut shipping costs to its U.S. stores. The plant has been run mostly by American managers, along with some from Sweden.

    (click here to continue reading)

    --------------------------

    Many Americans, like my father, tend to think the "need" for unions is long since passed. That may have been the case a decade ago, but given falling living standards in the U.S. I am beginning to wonder if that is the case anymore.

  2. #2
    Frumious Bandersnatch RandomGuy's Avatar
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    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.
    That was another quote that stood out to me.

    The "Big bad socialist nightmares in Europe" schtick seems to me to be playing out and fading away.

  3. #3
    Mr. John Wayne CosmicCowboy's Avatar
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    Of course, the fact that Sweden's personal tax rates are almost 50% have something to do with the wage disparity as well.

  4. #4
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    Just more proof that the VRWC union-busting/employee-exploitation of Human-Americans has succeed and can't be turned around.

    High unemployment, as a result of the VRWC financial sector screwing up the economy, weakens any power that employees could have and increases the power of employers to screw employees every which way, since employees are extremely desperate to have any job.

  5. #5
    Frumious Bandersnatch RandomGuy's Avatar
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    Of course, the fact that Sweden's personal tax rates are almost 50% have something to do with the wage disparity as well.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tax_rates_around_the_world

    Payroll tax, then income tax works out to about that.

    Still I imagine the benefits purchased with that, such as solid unemployment benefits, health insurance, daycare, and vacations, probably takes the edge off that.

    It isn't what you make, its what you keep.

    The average US worker in the end has been keeping less and less, after everything, including health care, is tallied up.

    The only difference is that they pay it all up front so they know what it is costing them, and we get nickeled and dimed to death, so that we can hang on to the illusion of low taxes and high standards of living.

  6. #6
    Scrumtrulescent
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    Many Americans, like my father, tend to think the "need" for unions is long since passed. That may have been the case a decade ago, but given falling living standards in the U.S. I am beginning to wonder if that is the case anymore.
    Unions are hardly the "cure" to a declining standard of living. Unions are a direct contributor to that decline.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tax_rates_around_the_world

    Payroll tax, then income tax works out to about that.
    Not for anyone who's only making $8/hr. Between deductions and credits I'd be willing to bet that most people making $8/hr end up with no income tax liability whatsoever.

  7. #7
    I play pretty, no? TeyshaBlue's Avatar
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    Unions are hardly the "cure" to a declining standard of living. Unions are a direct contributor to that decline.



    Not for anyone who's only making $8/hr. Between deductions and credits I'd be willing to bet that most people making $8/hr end up with no income tax liability whatsoever.
    While that's probably true, $8/hr isn't exactly a living wage, I'd wager.
    Comparing standards of living should include the concept of a living wage in each country. Then, the comparisons can carry some weight.

    BTW, I figure the $8/hr wage earners in the US are netting a credit on their tax returns in excess of what was paid in.

  8. #8
    Frumious Bandersnatch RandomGuy's Avatar
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    Unions are hardly the "cure" to a declining standard of living. Unions are a direct contributor to that decline.
    I think that mixes up cause and effect to a great degree.

    The availability of new labor markets had far more to do with our decline than anything unions did.

    $5/hr or $25/hr doesn't mean much when you are faced with people who are happy to work for 24 cents an hour.

    I have come to see the "blame unions" tendency on the part of many people as less of a valid idea, than of a successful propaganda effort, no offense.

    The globalization of the labor force and relative standards of living simply mean more than they once did.

    It really is a "race to the bottom". I can only hope that the bottom rises quickly enough to keep us from sliding too much, but given the depth of poverty globally on the part of most humans on the planet, I don't see that happening.

  9. #9
    Spur-taaaa TDMVPDPOY's Avatar
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    man seriously whats up with americas minimum wage laws...i think its about time they change it

    even down here in australia low paid full-time workers on the books also earn around that much of $15-20 per hr + super (en led to 4 weeks annual leave pay, females get maternity leave paid for 6 months and baby bonus from the govt) lol america labor laws

  10. #10
    Cogito Ergo Sum LnGrrrR's Avatar
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    Many Americans, like my father, tend to think the "need" for unions is long since passed. That may have been the case a decade ago, but given falling living standards in the U.S. I am beginning to wonder if that is the case anymore.
    That's why unions are always needed. People who claim that we don't need unions anymore are the same people who will rollback protections as soon as the unions aren't around.

    That kind of logic is like saying, "Well, we haven't had a nation attack us since WWII, so we don't need a military."

  11. #11
    Mr. John Wayne CosmicCowboy's Avatar
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    I think that mixes up cause and effect to a great degree.

    The availability of new labor markets had far more to do with our decline than anything unions did.

    $5/hr or $25/hr doesn't mean much when you are faced with people who are happy to work for 24 cents an hour.

    I have come to see the "blame unions" tendency on the part of many people as less of a valid idea, than of a successful propaganda effort, no offense.

    The globalization of the labor force and relative standards of living simply mean more than they once did.

    It really is a "race to the bottom". I can only hope that the bottom rises quickly enough to keep us from sliding too much, but given the depth of poverty globally on the part of most humans on the planet, I don't see that happening.
    Agreed.

    It's that and computer power/bandwidth. Real time communication and information sharing world wide. It's a global market.

  12. #12
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    "man seriously whats up with americas minimum wage laws"

    shh!

    Americans believe the Lie they they are the Best People In the Universe, God's Chosen People, living in The Best Country In The Universe, when in fact all other industrial countries have:

    better retirement plans,

    more security (eg, no risk of medical bankruptcy),

    better/cheaper/more efficient health care,

    earlier retirement age,

    3,4 more weeks vacation/year,

    cheaper/free education,

    more equitable sharing of national wealth,

    etc, etc.

  13. #13
    Cogito Ergo Sum LnGrrrR's Avatar
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    "man seriously whats up with americas minimum wage laws"

    shh!

    Americans believe the Lie they they are the Best People In the Universe, God's Chosen People, living in The Best Country In The Universe, when in fact all other industrial countries have:

    better retirement plans,

    more security (eg, no risk of medical bankruptcy),

    better/cheaper/more efficient health care,

    earlier retirement age,

    3,4 more weeks vacation/year,

    cheaper/free education,

    more equitable sharing of national wealth,

    etc, etc.
    But those are all socialist countries, which means they are automatically inferior to us capitalists!

  14. #14
    I play pretty, no? TeyshaBlue's Avatar
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    lol @ boutons playing in his straw fort.

  15. #15
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    boutons laying down, as always, some serious slapping

  16. #16
    I play pretty, no? TeyshaBlue's Avatar
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  17. #17
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    Anybody have an animate gif of



    showing a getting slapped?

  18. #18
    I play pretty, no? TeyshaBlue's Avatar
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    boutons, as always, not really knowing what he's slapping.

  19. #19
    Frumious Bandersnatch RandomGuy's Avatar
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    Anybody have an animate gif of



    showing a getting slapped?


    Ye shall know the smiley's and they shall set thee free.

  20. #20
    Scrumtrulescent
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    I have come to see the "blame unions" tendency on the part of many people as less of a valid idea, than of a successful propaganda effort,
    No doubt, the propaganda is out there. Still, one doesn't have to look much further than their local government to find an example of how retirement & pension obligations to one or more public sector unions are having a negative effect on the SOL thru some combination of tax increases & cuts in services.

    no offense.
    None taken.

  21. #21
    Scrumtrulescent
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    While that's probably true, $8/hr isn't exactly a living wage, I'd wager.
    Comparing standards of living should include the concept of a living wage in each country. Then, the comparisons can carry some weight.

    BTW, I figure the $8/hr wage earners in the US are netting a credit on their tax returns in excess of what was paid in.
    It would be interesting to see the numbers, but I think it's safe to say that $8/hr in the U.S. isn't going to come close to $19/hr in Sweden. If it were close, that Ikea plant would either be in Sweden or in Mexico.

  22. #22
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    Do you really think "socialistic" Sweden has priced its Cost of Living so high that people are forced into poverty and "working poor" like in USA?

  23. #23
    Cogito Ergo Sum LnGrrrR's Avatar
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    I don't see why people are eager to blame the unions though. Isn't capitalism about getting the best deal? Why aren't people mad at those who promised the union those concessions in the first place?

    I'm sure there are some crappy unions and some crappy union laws. But I dot think you can fault people for bargaining collectively for the best deal.

  24. #24
    It's off a video game. lazerelmo's Avatar
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    $19/hr + 5 weeks of vacation for a person to rivet desks together

    =
    For most of the last century the town of 45,000 relied on textiles and tobacco for jobs. Today the riverfront is lined with empty red brick warehouses and crumbling mills.

  25. #25
    Veteran Wild Cobra's Avatar
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    I don't see why people are eager to blame the unions though. Isn't capitalism about getting the best deal? Why aren't people mad at those who promised the union those concessions in the first place?

    I'm sure there are some crappy unions and some crappy union laws. But I dot think you can fault people for bargaining collectively for the best deal.
    I agree, but if the employer doesn't like their demands, they should be able to hire a replacement work force too.

    Out with the old, in with the new.

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