If you were to work for IKEA in Sweden, the company’s home country, you would be in a union, make $19 an hour, and get 5 weeks off. If, on the other hand, you were to work for Ikea here in the United States, you would make just $8 an hour, get just 12 days off a year (8 of them selected for you by your boss) and you would be stymied from forming a union at every step.
Those are just the conditions workers face at Swedwood, an IKEA-owned furniture manufacturer in Danville, Virginia. Not only are these workers paid less than their Swedish counterparts, they are treated poorly. There have been complaints about safety, racial discrimination, forced overtime work, and more. When workers tried to organize a union to address some of these issues, Swedwood hired Jackson Lewis, a union-busting law firm that has, “been retained to advise many employers who have succeeded in winning NLRB elections or in avoiding union elections altogether.” Workers were forced to attend a meeting with management where they were strongly discouraged from joining a union. Representatives from the Machinists union, on the other hand, have been refused entry to the plant, so they can’t even speak with the workers.
Union busting is reprehensible. Workers have the right to join together and bargain collectively with their employer. In IKEA’s case, this union busting is even more disgusting because their code of conduct specifically states that suppliers must not, “prevent workers from associating freely with any worker’s association or group of their choosing, or from collective bargaining.” Given that Ikea owns Swedwood, they could easily stop them from bringing in a union busting law firm and enforce their code of conduct, but that hasn’t happened.