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"It's ironic that Ikea looks on the U.S. and Danville the way that most people in the U.S. look at Mexico."
April 10, 2011 8:27 AM   Subscribe

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.
posted by hippybear (106 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
Boycott Ikea and use the money to buy union.
posted by parmanparman at 8:34 AM on April 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


I wonder if the workers in Virginia could join the sweedish union? then they could try to broker something under sweedish laws.
posted by humanfont at 8:39 AM on April 10, 2011


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.
Interesting and odd. One wonders what conditions are like at other IKEA factories outside of Sweden.
posted by ZeusHumms at 8:40 AM on April 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hey at least they're not Wal-Mart.
posted by fuq at 8:42 AM on April 10, 2011


"It's ironic that Ikea looks on the U.S. and Danville the way that most people in the U.S. look at Mexico,"

Not irony it's the glory of the free market!
posted by Max Power at 8:44 AM on April 10, 2011 [15 favorites]


It's ironic that Ikea looks on the U.S. and Danville the way that most people in the U.S. look at Mexico.

I work for a German company, and in site meetings with bigwigs from across the pond, they've openly joked about how we American workers are cheaper labor for them (e.g., fewer vacation days) than workers in their European sites.
posted by statolith at 8:46 AM on April 10, 2011 [8 favorites]


The plant has been run mostly by American managers,

I think I've identified part of the problem right here.
posted by 1adam12 at 8:47 AM on April 10, 2011 [36 favorites]


I'm going to follow this story closely but the way it appears right now, I will never buy any of their stuff again. Those workers in Sweden get $19/hour plus they live in a generous welfare state. I am so disgusted.. Ikea is demanding globalist-driven, suicide-by-industry for these people.

We're getting back to the old mantra of "organize or starve".
posted by Intrepid at 8:49 AM on April 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sweden seems to budget for their generous welfare state
posted by loosemouth at 9:01 AM on April 10, 2011 [5 favorites]


Doesn't surprise me, considering who runs Ikea, and what his philosophy is
posted by zombieApoc at 9:03 AM on April 10, 2011


This is why union laws and the fights over unions in the Midwest are so important. Virginia is a "right to work" state and I'd imagine it's very hard to form a union. If the laws themselves restrict unions then how do we expect workers to organize at all?
posted by catwash at 9:06 AM on April 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


What's "funny" is IKEA conducts extensive audits of their vendors (my employer used to be an IKEA vendor) and one of the aspects they examine is working conditions and the ability of workers to exercise their right to organize. Well, at least on paper they do.
posted by MikeMc at 9:12 AM on April 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is why union laws and the fights over unions in the Midwest are so important. Virginia is a "right to work" state and I'd imagine it's very hard to form a union.

Why do you think the factory was built in Virginia in the first place?
posted by deadmessenger at 9:13 AM on April 10, 2011 [19 favorites]


Doesn't surprise me, considering who runs Ikea, and what his philosophy is

Who is Ingvar Kamprad.

Short version: he's a former teen fascist who would be the richest man in the world were it not for his foundation, which acts as a tax shelter, but leaves his entire ownership in legal doubt. Maybe not in doubt to him though.

This idea of boycotting a foreign company because it finally moves some of its operations to the US is a little strange. Freud might say it was really displaced anger about not getting the real thing. I say it's culture shock at awakening in an obvious second-world state condition. Maybe a threatening letter to Ikea operations in America is more cathartic for the venters, but don't forget to feign indignation at all those overtime hours in this crappy economy.
posted by Brian B. at 9:17 AM on April 10, 2011 [5 favorites]


This isn’t about IKEA, this is about the U.S. and what we’ve let it become. IKEA isn’t doing anything that any other company wouldn’t do, wouldn’t be required to do, under the rules of the Free Market.
posted by bongo_x at 9:22 AM on April 10, 2011 [33 favorites]


America is just one big lamp tossed out by the curb in the rain.
posted by dracomarca at 9:28 AM on April 10, 2011 [17 favorites]


How long until the US starts running late night ads on CNN promoting itself as a great place for low cost operations? They can run them between the Croatian ones and ads for the Qatar Financial Centre.
posted by atrazine at 9:37 AM on April 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


Why do you think the factory was built in Virginia in the first place?

The same reason automobile manufacturers have moved south of the Mason Dixon line. (I know your question was rhetorical btw)

Third World here we come!
posted by photoslob at 9:38 AM on April 10, 2011


I'd bet this is about local management, not headquarters. If Swedish HQ wanted sweatshops, they wouldn't go to the U.S.
posted by fatbird at 9:39 AM on April 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Workers complain of eliminated raises, a frenzied pace, mandatory overtime and racial discrimination.

Don't they always? And when they price themselves out of the market, they'll go "boo-hoo-hoo, they took our jobs to China." These bozos should get down on their knees, crawl through the mud, and thank Ingvar Kamprad that they're able to feed their families. Instead, they're desperate to turn their town into the next Detroit. Good luck guys!
posted by Faze at 9:41 AM on April 10, 2011 [4 favorites]


Yes, the brutality cleverly disguised as sarcasm fairly jumps off the page at you. Kudos.
posted by blucevalo at 9:51 AM on April 10, 2011 [5 favorites]


These bozos should get down on their knees, crawl through the mud, and thank Ingvar Kamprad that they're able to feed their families. Instead, they're desperate to turn their town into the next Detroit.

Yassur, boss. Rights away, boss. We be gwan, now, boss.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:56 AM on April 10, 2011 [11 favorites]


Except that Ikea esstentially lied to these employees. If a company chooses to ignore the principles outlined ings own code of conduct, then the workers have every reason and right to bitch about it. A free market only works when everybody's honest. When businesses that extol the virtues of a free market actually conduct themselves accordingly, then you can bitch about the greedy workers all you want. Want to know why I favor some government regulation of the marketplace? Because the market has demonstrated time and time again that it can't regulate itself. I wish that it was different, but its not. TL;DR version: Lieing scumbags gonna lie and be scumbags.
posted by KingEdRa at 10:01 AM on April 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


Don't they always? And when they price themselves out of the market, they'll go "boo-hoo-hoo, they took our jobs to China." These bozos should get down on their knees, crawl through the mud, and thank Ingvar Kamprad that they're able to feed their families.

This is toad licking. People just like those workers buy the furniture that make him wealthy. Everyone who shares citizenship with the employees has more economic interest with them than with the foreign owner who takes a profit. You are only protecting a win-lose worldview.
posted by Brian B. at 10:02 AM on April 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Take the larger view:
G.E. pays nearly no taxes and yet they too are non-union in most if not all places, and of course much of what they make is now made in Mexico...
But here, it gets better: We have always associated the GOP as close to big business because that is where they get money from for elections. The Dems? well, used to be unions but since the decline of American unions, the Dems now also suck up to big business for money for elections. And that leaves the average American, sans unions, sans much of what is needed, and sans a strong representation in Washington.
posted by Postroad at 10:04 AM on April 10, 2011 [9 favorites]



Don't they always? And when they price themselves out of the market, they'll go "boo-hoo-hoo, they took our jobs to China." These bozos should get down on their knees, crawl through the mud, and thank Ingvar Kamprad that they're able to feed their families. Instead, they're desperate to turn their town into the next Detroit. Good luck guys!

From the article:


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 US is China in this picture. However, IKEA pays their Swedish workers more than double what they pay their US counterparts. They still have their jobs in Sweden though. The company is still profitable as well. The only reason that IKEA can get away with this in the US is because of the US's weak labor protection policies. How is this a good thing? Should the US just become like China in the way it treats it's citizens and workers in order to have decent jobs?
posted by yertledaturtle at 10:07 AM on April 10, 2011 [6 favorites]


Why do you think the factory was built in Virginia in the first place?

The fact that Virginia is a right-to-work state ( and very "business-friendly" ) is a big plus, no doubt. But Danville is also an utterly destroyed furniture-building and textile town. There was an existing base of facilities and expertise already there, I'm sure.

The situation in this country has gotten so fucked-up that the Ikea employees' best bet here is the Swedish citizens' outrage at the situation.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 10:17 AM on April 10, 2011 [24 favorites]


The cold hard truth is that Faze is right. Ikea built the plant here because it made financial sense, not because they want to reward the US with some much needed jobs. The market was the carrot that brought them here. Take it away, and they go away, too. As they always do. But it's better to tell Faze to shut up or simply wish he'd just go away. Flag him and hope his comment gets scrubbed!

That being said, I'm curious if this is a problem associated with the local management, or more a company-wide characteristic?
posted by 2N2222 at 10:18 AM on April 10, 2011


These bozos should get down on their knees, crawl through the mud

and make sure their rifle sights are calibrated accurately
posted by pyramid termite at 10:18 AM on April 10, 2011 [10 favorites]


The cold hard truth is that Faze is right. Ikea built the plant here because it made financial sense, not because they want to reward the US with some much needed jobs. The market was the carrot that brought them here. Take it away, and they go away, too. As they always do.

I disagree completely. Shitty jobs benefit nobody except the already wealthy. Everyone could work at McDonald's and we'd have 100% employment. Our economy would fold up and die, though.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 10:23 AM on April 10, 2011 [9 favorites]


The cold hard truth is that Faze is right. Ikea built the plant here because it made financial sense, not because they want to reward the US with some much needed jobs. The market was the carrot that brought them here. Take it away, and they go away, too. As they always do. But it's better to tell Faze to shut up or simply wish he'd just go away.

Well, not really. Swedwood pays it's workers in Europe more than double their US counterparts and IKEA is still profitable. The reason that Swedwood put their facility in the US was to lower shipping costs not labor costs.

From the article:
Swedwood says it chose Danville to cut shipping costs to its U.S. stores.
posted by yertledaturtle at 10:27 AM on April 10, 2011 [8 favorites]


2N222, I'm not disputing the fact that Ikea located the factory to exploit an economic opportunity. I'm taking issue with Ikea's hypocrisy in the matter. If they DON'T want workers to have the right to organize, then they should remove that language from their OWN CODE OF CONDUCT. It's not their greed that makes then lieing scumbags, it's their LIEING about their greed that makes them so.
posted by KingEdRa at 10:28 AM on April 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


The reason that Swedwood put their facility in the US was to lower shipping costs not labor costs.

They put the facility in the US to lower shipping costs. They put the facility in Virginia to get lower labor costs, with a minimal risk of unionization.
posted by deadmessenger at 10:29 AM on April 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


[folks - we have metatalk for metacommentary. Flag. Move on. Thank you.]
posted by jessamyn at 10:34 AM on April 10, 2011


As mass producers, they obviously want to save on shipping and labor, but I would assume their wood sources would also change to accommodate the manufacturing site.
posted by Brian B. at 10:35 AM on April 10, 2011


They put the facility in the US to lower shipping costs. They put the facility in Virginia to get lower labor costs, with a minimal risk of unionization.

I suppose this could have been a factor. But the fact remains that their workers in Europe make more than double their US counterparts - Ikea has not shipped those jobs to China. It does not necessarily follow that if the workers here demand higher pay that the jobs will "go to China" as Faze stated. The location of the facility in the US lowers the costs of shipping in the US. That I think is the most important cost that is being cut here not necessarily labor costs. So, IKEA could pay these workers more, have reasonable work hours and ample vacation hours without cutting into their bottom line that much.
posted by yertledaturtle at 10:41 AM on April 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


The cold hard truth is that Faze is right. Ikea built the plant here because it made financial sense, not because they want to reward the US with some much needed jobs. The market was the carrot that brought them here. Take it away, and they go away, too. As they always do.

Robert Reich provides a counterargument in his book Aftershock that a strong American middle class fuels the kind of economy that allows, say, the IKEA Group and whichever shady industrialist behind it to make such massive profits. Further, he provides an evidence-based case that the kind of anti-union, anti-worker approach that you're suggesting actually leads to worst-case results, e.g. Detroit.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:49 AM on April 10, 2011 [21 favorites]


The company made 2.7 billion euros in profit last year, up 6.1% from 2009, according to its most recent financial statements.

Still, last fall, Swedwood eliminated regularly scheduled raises and made cuts to some pay packages in Danville. Starting pay in the packing department, for example, was reduced to $8 an hour from $9.75. Steen said the changes were made to free up more money to pay incentive bonuses to top performers.


Nice.
posted by ambient2 at 10:56 AM on April 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


Starting pay in the packing department, for example, was reduced to $8 an hour from $9.75. Steen said the changes were made to free up more money to pay incentive bonuses to top performers.

What's so objectionable about that? Shouldn't there be some kind of incentive for the production teams that didn't have accidents, limited down-time on the line, and generated impressive internal QA results compared to their peers?

It's not like they funneled the money from factory workers into the pockets of some muckity-mucks in the corporate office who wouldn't know a hard day's work from a local government tax break funded latte.
posted by jsturgill at 11:16 AM on April 10, 2011


America is just one big lamp tossed out by the curb in the rain.

"Do you feel sad for the little workers?
That is because you are crazy."
posted by Flashman at 11:27 AM on April 10, 2011 [6 favorites]


What's so objectionable about that? Shouldn't there be some kind of incentive for the production teams that didn't have accidents, limited down-time on the line, and generated impressive internal QA results compared to their peers?

Because usually, moves like this are made so you can pay the majority of the workers a lot less, and a handful a pittance more.
posted by Tomorrowful at 11:29 AM on April 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


Short version: he's a former teen fascist who would be the richest man in the world were it not for his foundation, which acts as a tax shelter, but leaves his entire ownership in legal doubt. Maybe not in doubt to him though.

I know nothing about the tax shelter claims, but what I do know about fascism and people of a certain age in Europe is that you need to put a lot of that to one side. If you have a good argument that he continues to be a fascist or is still influenced by such ideas, let's have it. Otherwise, we're raking up hell for nothing.
posted by Jehan at 11:37 AM on April 10, 2011


What's so objectionable about that?

This company is facing racial discrimination complaints already. When employees are unprotected it's very easy for management to give all the good positions to their friends, deem them "top performers", and gave them raises and bonuses while freezing (or lowering) the pay for everyone else.
posted by The Hamms Bear at 11:42 AM on April 10, 2011


I know nothing about the tax shelter claims, but what I do know about fascism and people of a certain age in Europe is that you need to put a lot of that to one side. If you have a good argument that he continues to be a fascist or is still influenced by such ideas, let's have it. Otherwise, we're raking up hell for nothing.

I don't have anything more to add. I provided just the right amount already, and I can't remove it, nor would I, and neither can you. Waste of time, huh?
posted by Brian B. at 11:52 AM on April 10, 2011


Hey at least they're not Wal-Mart.

Well if both Wal-Mart and Ikea try to limit the FREEDOM OF THE AMERICAN WORKERS by not allowing them to unionize, they are alike.

They are both a bunch of jerks who are whittling away the middle class.
posted by hal_c_on at 11:54 AM on April 10, 2011



2N2222 writes "The cold hard truth is that Faze is right."

Faze is blaming Detroit's problem on unions and that is, like most simplistic answers to complex problems, mostly wrong.
posted by Mitheral at 11:54 AM on April 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


Hey, my hometown!

Anyway, one day I hope to be paid enough to buy a new pair of kneepads.
posted by cropshy at 12:06 PM on April 10, 2011


In fact the big companies like IKEA have the same mentality about their employees.I' m talking about real thing when a friend who worked at Ikea romania and he was dismissed just because he is a gipsy but he didn't steal anything or make something wrong
posted by iustinu10 at 12:07 PM on April 10, 2011


The real question here is how did such anti-business, liberal progressive Godless Socialistic, semi-communistic nation ever give birth to such a huge successful company that competes worldwide and dominates, and yet can still pay it's employees $18 an hour, and give them 5 weeks vacation, even while they have full medical healthcare provided by the government and a quality of life that beats out the United States.

That is completely impossible and that very reality should be enough to make the heads of free marketers corporatisit explode even while they hungrily scan their Ayn Rand books for an answer, and apply their Reagan dildos their overworked Freedom-loving bumholes so as to generate more of that "freedom-loving," Wall street suckling Ronny Raygun trickle down good time feeling.

Ronny Reagan love you long time, Ayn Rand enthusiast-proto-fascists, it's true, but still, Sweden and the way it works, is a real harsh on the mellow innit??

How the fuck did the holy and perfect St. Reagan Free Market ever decide to smile it's beneficence on that place and create such fabulous wealth and success. Even while taxing away like no one's business and yet somehow not steal a good living, and great quality of life from the middle class??
posted by Skygazer at 12:09 PM on April 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


"Do you feel sad for the little workers?
That is because you are crazy."


They are just drones.
They do not have feelings!
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 12:10 PM on April 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


Detroit's problem is not unions or liberalism, as Faze and the op-ed board of the Wall Street Journal are so desperate to have you believe. The problem for the last half of the 20th century was the myopia of business and political elites: we hitched our wagon to the auto industry and nothing else. The problem now is the unwillingness of political leaders to even consider the possibility of regionalism in any form while being burdened with the problems brought by previous shortsightedness.
posted by ofthestrait at 12:14 PM on April 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


Ah fuck it, I'll tell you how and why. Because the idea of the all holy and perfect Free Market and American Exceptionalism is as big a piece of laughable stupidity as the idea, once held by many respectable idiots, that the earth was flat and that it was the center of the Universe...

Ah fuck it all to hell, Let the American Dark Ages come, most of the country deserves it for fucking being idiots who vote against their needs. This country is so broken. This century has sucked so hard already...
posted by Skygazer at 12:15 PM on April 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


Labor is always going to be the #1 cost to a company that employs even a reasonably large number of people. Shipping *may* be a factor, but it's not nearly as significant.

IKEA is totally double-dipping here, but reduced shipping is the appetizer while cheap labor is the main course. Gotta admire that American work ethic!
posted by erstwhile at 12:23 PM on April 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


I was being sarcastic.
posted by jsturgill at 12:25 PM on April 10, 2011


Yeah, well, we might not have much of an economy any more, and we don't have your high pay or your healthcare, but we can still bomb the shit out of your country, and when the crunch comes that's exactly what we'll do. We'll take all of your precious herring. And because we don't eat those tiny, smelly fish here, we'll make bookshelves out of them. So there, Ikea.
posted by spasm at 12:29 PM on April 10, 2011 [5 favorites]


The time of the unions in their current form is over. This has been a long time in the coming, and union power will continue to diminish. Only 25% of the workforce is unionized and private sector employees don't like watching unions reap the benefits of politically intertwined polices that favor the unions
posted by silentsender at 12:49 PM on April 10, 2011


The IKEA Way on Purchasing Home Furnishing Products, (IWAY) is based on international conventions and declarations. It includes provisions based on the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), the International Labour Organisation Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work (1998), and the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development (1992).

IWAY


the International Labour Organisation Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work
posted by MikeMc at 12:52 PM on April 10, 2011


private sector employees don't like watching unions reap the benefits of politically intertwined polices that favor the unions

Surely the correct path would be not to end unions for those who have them but for those who aren't unionized to organize.

It's a strange mindset which says "you have something I don't, so I need to make sure nobody has it" rather than "you have something I don't, so I should work to get the same for myself".
posted by hippybear at 12:56 PM on April 10, 2011 [12 favorites]


Silentsender: The time of the unions in their current form is over.

And hooray for that I say, but not because I want to feed the despicable proto-fascist Tea Party narrative, but because the U.S. Labor Movement based on a paradigm from the early 20th century is woefully susceptible to the divide and conquer predations of a plutocracy and a anti-middle class GOP that has been funding think papers and public opinion disinformation to exploit its vulnerabilities and begin the process of dismantling and lessening the political power they wield.

[What's amazing is that some Right-Wing think tank fuck was able to point out that as long as the Middle class identified with the Unions they were nearly unbreakable, but create the narrative that they're the enemy of jobs, and business and, YES THE MIDDLE CLASS, and bingo!! Vulnerability created and exploited...]

So, the Union Movement needs to change its spots somewhat, leverage the unbelievable power of the social networks and move more surgically, and strategically through the use of things like this idea I've been thinking of for Flash-Strikes, and Micro-Strikes and Micro-boycotts. What do you think the power of millions deciding to boycott a product or company for one day would be??

Imagine a one day boycott of all IKEA or Koch industry products...

How beautiful would that be?

(And when they begin calling for the regulation of social media, you will know that they've been cut to the quick.)

MICRO-STRIKE AND MICRO-BOYCOTTS. Let's roll...etc...

The union movement either re-invents itself or it's sitting target. It got lazy fat and necrotic like an old company will that has an unchanging income stream...
posted by Skygazer at 1:31 PM on April 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Flag him and hope his comment gets scrubbed!
posted by 2N2222


You don't even understand how the website you comment in actually works.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 1:39 PM on April 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


What do you think the power of millions deciding to boycott a product or company for one day would be??

Precisely zero if those customers then go back to those same companies the next day or next week to buy. And if they don't go back to buy, then you are looking at normal boycott, not some fancy web 2.0 "micro-boycott" as you phrase it.

So, the Union Movement needs to change its spots somewhat, leverage the unbelievable power of the social networks

This just seems fanciful net-utopianism. I'm sympathetic to your overall position, but the position of unions vis a vis society at large is far complex that getting the message out over twitter. It needs boots on the ground, activists lobbying for change, and a million other things... "the unbelievable power of social networks" can help spread a message, but doesn't the rest of a very complicated picture.
posted by modernnomad at 1:41 PM on April 10, 2011 [4 favorites]


In other news: Millions of White People explode.
posted by jonmc at 1:41 PM on April 10, 2011


Well, not really. Swedwood pays it's workers in Europe more than double their US counterparts and IKEA is still profitable. The reason that Swedwood put their facility in the US was to lower shipping costs not labor costs.

The Swedish plant is red-herring. IKEA outsources in Europe too, just to the former Soviet block. Somehow I doubt those ex-communist are getting paid Swedish wages.

IKEA is a global company and depends on being able to manufacture close to point of sale. The same table design will be manufactured in different places using differently sourced materials depending upon where you buy it.
posted by ennui.bz at 1:44 PM on April 10, 2011


Imagine a one day boycott of all IKEA or Koch industry products...

IKEA is not on this right-wing donor list, and probably never will be. Regretfully, I am linking a conservative blog, so I will copy those above 95%.

Ace Hardware Corporation 100%
Advance Auto Parts, Inc. 100%
Best Buy Co., Inc. 100%
California Pizza Kitchen, Inc. 100%
Cintas Corporation 100%
Citgo (Petroleos de Venezuela S.A.) 100%
CSS Industries, Inc. 100%
Curves International Inc 100%
Dollar General Corporation 100%
Dollar Tree Stores, Inc. 100%
Domino's Pizza, Inc. 100%
Fruit of the Loom 100%
In-N-Out Burgers, Inc 100%
Kohl's Corporation 100%
Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, Inc. 100%
Lowe's Companies, Inc. 100%
Michaels Stores, Inc. 100%
Nordstrom, Inc. 100%
PETsMART, Inc. 100%
RE/MAX International, Inc. 100%
Russell Stover Candies Inc. 100%
The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company, Inc. 100%
WinCo Foods, Inc 100%
Bob Evans Farms, Inc. 99%
Chick-fil-A, Inc 99%
Huffy Corporation 99%
Pier 1 Imports, Inc. 99%
Raley's Inc. 99%
Gold's Gym International, Inc 98%
Outback Steakhouse, Inc. 98%
Kelly Services, Inc. 97%
Williams-Sonoma, Inc 97%
CBRL Group, Inc. 96%
McDonald's Corporation 96%
posted by Brian B. at 1:49 PM on April 10, 2011 [4 favorites]


These bozos should get down on their knees, crawl through the mud

and make sure their rifle sights are calibrated accurately


Ahh! Now we see the violence inherent in the system.
posted by formless at 1:54 PM on April 10, 2011


like this idea I've been thinking of for Flash-Strikes, and Micro-Strikes and Micro-boycotts. What do you think the power of millions deciding to boycott a product or company for one day would be??

About as much good as a one-day protest in Tahrir Square would have been. Or if Madison had seen only a Saturday demonstration instead of weeks of occupation of the capitol.

How effective was Glenn Beck's rally in DC? How much impact did the Stewart/Colbert day have on the way things run?

It's just like with the never-materializing-yet-always-emailed-around "gasoline holidays". Even if everyone participated in them, they would do no good because people would either buy gas the day before or the day after.

The point of strikes and boycotts isn't to make a tiny statement and then go back to the status quo. It's to make things inconvenient or even impossible for a company to do business until it is forced to honestly deal with the issues being laid before it by the workers or consumers who are concerned enough to take action.

The same thing with boycotts. The Montgomery Bus Boycott lasted 381 days. And like how unions support striking workforces by helping provide them with food and money to cover household bills, those supporting the boycott helped provide transportation and good footwear for those who were suddenly needing alternate ways to get to and from work.

Anyway, the point of unions isn't to strike. The point of unions is to give labor a more equal footing with management when it comes to terms of employment. Striking is what you do to force management listen to you when every other avenue has been blocked.
posted by hippybear at 2:06 PM on April 10, 2011 [6 favorites]


BP: "Robert Reich provides a counterargument in his book Aftershock that a strong American middle class fuels the kind of economy that allows, say, the IKEA Group and whichever shady industrialist behind it to make such massive profits."

FTFY. Because, really, to a multinational, it matters not where that middle-class is - just that it exists and buys middle-class goods.

The American middle-class is plateauing, if not already waning. Growth in that demographic will most likely next come from India & South America, with China & Africa to follow. IKEA don't care where they ship their blonde and foil masterpieces, as long as they keep shipping more of them.
posted by Pinback at 2:24 PM on April 10, 2011


The Swedish plant is red-herring. IKEA outsources in Europe too, just to the former Soviet block.

Actually, as of 2007, 33% of what Ikea sells comes from China. You can find the location of over 2000 Ikea suppliers and factories here.
posted by hippybear at 2:26 PM on April 10, 2011


Thanks for the post. I've been finding less and less reason to go to Ikea and this tips the scales to avoiding it completely. Thrift stores and flea markets have cooler stuff anyway. Keeping an eye on what people leave on their curb can be rewarding as well.
posted by telstar at 3:00 PM on April 10, 2011


Boycott Ikea and use the money to buy union.
also don't fly coach. the price wars are what is destroying the good old flying. oh, and please boycott that dreary cheapo milk. no farmer can live off that. and don't even think of purchasing those off-price sneakers. and stop whining about that chair you can't afford. surely you must have the money.

shit, I'd love to 'buy union' but I'm not that rich.
posted by krautland at 3:06 PM on April 10, 2011


and please boycott that dreary cheapo milk. no farmer can live off that.

I worked in a dairy bottling facility for a while. The cheapo milk is being brought in on the same trucks and run through the same machines and put into the same bottles as the expensive milk. Once the run for company A is completed, they change the labels over to Company B, and then start up the line again. There is absolutely no difference between most milk you find in stores. unless it's organic, supplemented in some special way, or ultra-pasteurized instead of plain old pasteurized, it's identical and from the same plant.
posted by hippybear at 3:09 PM on April 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Having seen numerous unions destroy their own jobs through greed, I can say that Detroit, along with most of Ohio are guilty of forcing company owners to seek out less expensive labor to build their products. I personally took a number of products offshore to maintain profit levels that were necessary to keep stock values high enough for company expansion. The world supply of employees willing to work for minimum wage, or below, far exceeds the US workforce.
posted by crushedhope at 3:28 PM on April 10, 2011


Having seen numerous unions destroy their own jobs through greed

Well, see... that's the thing. Unions and business owners should be working together to find the sweet spot where everyone wins. When either side is too greedy, the entire structure topples.

But you know, it's not the unions which are guilty of forcing company owners to week out less expensive labor. It's shareholders who demand maximized profit at the expense of everything else. If the business of Business were to provide for a better quality of life for all who come in contact with a company, be they shareholders, workers, management, or customers, that'd be one thing. But that's not how things are structured. Profit Is King. Everyone else can go fuck themselves. Really no way to run a society, IMO.
posted by hippybear at 3:39 PM on April 10, 2011 [5 favorites]


This isn’t about IKEA, this is about the U.S. and what we’ve let it become. IKEA isn’t doing anything that any other company wouldn’t do, wouldn’t be required to do, under the rules of the Free Market.

This. My sister works for an American company in the EU (IBM), and she enjoys European labor laws. Even American companies behave different outside of the U.S.
posted by Tarumba at 3:40 PM on April 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


Having seen numerous unions destroy their own jobs through greed, I can say that Detroit, along with most of Ohio are guilty of forcing company owners to seek out less expensive labor to build their products.

That's just victim blaming. The US allows companies to import almost anything from anywhere, whether the product is from slave labor sources, or from toxic means of production. Because we don't enforce our own rules on imported products, our business owners see the chance to move abroad and get away with exploitation and pollution. The vast majority of Americans have nothing to lose if we enforce our values. We have such a trade imbalance with the offenders that if those countries tried to retaliate and ban American products, they would likely be banning faked or pirated copies.
posted by Brian B. at 3:53 PM on April 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


>That's just victim blaming. The US allows companies to import almost anything from anywhere, whether the product is from slave labor sources, or from toxic means of production

Increased Tariffs mean Tax Cuts for all!
posted by mikelieman at 4:53 PM on April 10, 2011


also don't fly coach. the price wars are what is destroying the good old flying. oh, and please boycott that dreary cheapo milk. no farmer can live off that. and don't even think of purchasing those off-price sneakers. and stop whining about that chair you can't afford. surely you must have the money.

You may not like it, but expect more of this not less.

This is where the anti-union philososphy leads. This is where destroying the middle class leads. Selling cheaper goods and services to customers who have less and less money to buy those goods and services. A race to the fucking bottom.

A rising tide lifts all boats. It's not just an expression. These "greedy, self-centered workers" who value their labor are the key to our salvation, regardless of what the free-market idiots have to say about it.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 4:53 PM on April 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ikea is to furniture as McDonalds is to food.
posted by RandlePatrickMcMurphy at 5:19 PM on April 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have this one thing to add to the discussion: you can't look at labour costs in isolation and compare them. There are cases where the exact same product manufactured in Europe is also manufactured in a third world country (with the workers being paid about 1/10th what the workers in Europe are paid)... and the product from Europe is actually cheaper overall. Of course this varies by industry, but I just want to point out that a dollar saved in labour costs overseas isn't necessarily a dollar of extra profit. It may be that US workers are paid this much in the article simply because that's how productive the factory is - only the persons with knowledge of the operations would be able to tell you how close to break even they are.

This - the productivity difference - is why I haven't completely exploded in panic (yet) about wage and cost disparities between the first world and the third world. I have a friend who works in a multinational which has a setup in a third world country making computer electronics, where they're sourcing workers from an even poorer third world country, for about USD1 per hour. And this product goes into the global market, competing with product from the US and Europe. I know the workers in Virginia are looking at Sweden and thinking, damn, they make 2x as much as I do this is unfair.. but maybe they should look to Asia and start panicking about workers making 0.1x as much as they do, building the same product...
posted by xdvesper at 6:54 PM on April 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ikea is to furniture as McDonalds is to food.

Except that what Ikea makes is largely biodegradable.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 7:16 PM on April 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


Well, see... that's the thing. Unions and business owners should be working together to find the sweet spot where everyone wins. When either side is too greedy, the entire structure topples.

Like the Chevy Volt I suppose. How many do you think they will sell? Are you going to buy this inflated POS?...even at today's gas prices? The thing about unions is not understanding the competition. They only care about what they can get today, with no concern for the future. Walk into your local union shop and observe Their level of productivity versus the rest of the real world.
posted by crushedhope at 7:43 PM on April 10, 2011


Ugh, boycotts...

We've been avoiding Home Depot and Menard's for the last few weeks because both contributed to Scott Walker's campaign. We've been patronizing Lowe's because that's the only other real option around here. Now I see from this comment that Lowe's contributes 100% to conservative organizations. So what are we supposed to do? Forge steel and make tools in our garage? Almost any time we boycott something, the competitor seems equally as bad. There needs to be a "buy this instead" list.
posted by desjardins at 8:14 PM on April 10, 2011


I think we're at the point where avoiding protectionism is turning into a greater sin than protectionism. We need a few strategic tarrifs, taxes and outright bans - arbitrage that penalizes a scant one percent at the expense of average people trying to make ends meet is not arbitrage at all. If your banana republic can't meet basic health, environmental and standard of living benchmarks, I see no reason to reward the bosses running it.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:29 PM on April 10, 2011


Oh, gee, Desjardins, whatever shall you do?

Which brings me to my next point. The independent retailers that are left after the chain-stores muscled in are fucking awesome at what they do. Visit them.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:32 PM on April 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Now I see from this comment that Lowe's contributes 100% to conservative organizations. So what are we supposed to do? Forge steel and make tools in our garage?

I would bet that Lowe's has gambled that people won't notice. The problem in angering an entire base of customers is that it won't increase them to the amount that they will lose them for good. Scapegoating sinners and heathens may work when raising money for politics, but not when selling goods and services to the public.
posted by Brian B. at 8:43 PM on April 10, 2011


The independent retailers that are left after the chain-stores muscled in are fucking awesome at what they do.

and being business people, it's most likely they vote republican

that's why it's called "the system" or "the establishment" - because it encompasses almost EVERYTHING
posted by pyramid termite at 10:45 PM on April 10, 2011


"I personally took a number of products offshore to maintain profit levels that were necessary to keep stock values high enough for company expansion..."
posted by crushedhope


Is there a better word than "eponysterical" when it's just not very goddamned funny?
posted by litlnemo at 11:11 PM on April 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


Regretfully, I am linking a conservative blog, so I will copy those above 95%.


Last couple of times before accepting a job offer, I checked out the company's contributions on Open Secrets .org.

And both times, I saw that only the very upper management (usually the CEO and one other guy) contributed anything (that is, anything over the $200 per candidate threshold that requires a candidate to report a contributor).

I say this because one of the companies I worked for (and checked out) is on that list, and the truth is, if I were still there, the percent conservative would be a lot lower after the > $500 I gave to Russ Feingold last cycle, or the greater amount I gave Obama in '08.


Which is just to point out two things: one, many corporations are effectively apolitical, with just the top guy doing a favor to his friends (who are inevitably Republicans in Republican states) by giving a few grand. Percentages aren't as revealing here as absolute numbers.

And two, the vast majority of people don't contribute to candidates.
posted by orthogonality at 11:24 PM on April 10, 2011


You used to
Laugh about
Everybody who was hangin out
And I look at you now you don't talk so loud
I look at you now you don't even seem so proud
About having to be scrounging
For your next meal

How does it feel, how does it feel
To be on your own, with no direction home

posted by Twang at 11:35 PM on April 10, 2011


Like the Chevy Volt I suppose. How many do you think they will sell? Are you going to buy this inflated POS?...even at today's gas prices? The thing about unions is not understanding the competition. They only care about what they can get today, with no concern for the future. Walk into your local union shop and observe Their level of productivity versus the rest of the real world.

And that's the union's fault? If management designs a POS, the union workers will build the best POS they can. Detroit's problem was not that their workeres made too much, but that A. Management never funded their pensions, and B. They designed and built shitty cars.


Walk into your local union shop and observe Their level of productivity versus the rest of the real world.


That's just a blatantly indefensible statement. Show us some numbers if you maintain it's truthful. This is a typical attack from the right - you insist on having it both ways: unions are strong and evil enough to break a company, yet too weak to get the job done.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 4:52 AM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Boycotts can't work. There's no incentive for the management to make the decision you want them to make. They see a decrease in sales they lay off workers or advertise more or lower prices or do a million things that are unrelated to your goal. This issue is between the bosses and their employees. That's where dialogue should be opened and has to be. Unions can help that through collective bargaining but consumer pressure isn't a part of that relationship. Ultimately collective bargaining won't work either though. Collective bargaining on large scale means a lot of people are out of a job for a while and without social programs to support them while they fight... Well people will thank their employers for offering their old job back at 50% of the original offer. So um move to canada? :/
posted by Submiqent at 5:25 AM on April 11, 2011


Ultimately collective bargaining won't work either though. Collective bargaining on large scale means a lot of people are out of a job for a while and without social programs to support them while they fight... Well people will thank their employers for offering their old job back at 50% of the original offer.

That's part of the bargain. Unions are not all-powerful, nor are they asking for any handouts - unions merely provide some counterweight to organized management.

Unions don't want a strike any more than management does. Strikes are wars of attrition, essentially, and management is usually in a better position financially to have an extended fight. Loss of profit is usually the motivator on management's side, while a dwindling strike fund is a major motivating force on the union's side.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 5:50 AM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well, see... that's the thing. Unions and business owners should be working together to find the sweet spot where everyone wins. When either side is too greedy, the entire structure topples.

Like the Chevy Volt I suppose. How many do you think they will sell?


Um.... What does the Chevy Volt have to do with unions and management finding a sweet spot in their contract which lets both thrive?

This is perhaps the biggest non-sequitor I've ever come across in a MeFi thread.
posted by hippybear at 7:10 AM on April 11, 2011


I like waffles.
posted by desjardins at 8:02 AM on April 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Like the Chevy Volt I suppose. How many do you think they will sell? Are you going to buy this inflated POS?...even at today's gas prices?

Well we'll soon find out. Short of a massively publicized crash and burn I'm predicting them having no problem selling out the first two years (10,000 and 45,000 units). They probably won't have any trouble selling 60,000 in the third year either. I guess a lot of that will depend on whether we actually get C$2 a litre gas in the next couple of years.

The thing about unions is not understanding the competition. They only care about what they can get today, with no concern for the future.

Ya, that's why job security, contracting out, and pensions are never something unions fight for. That's why no union has ever negotiated a pay cut to keep all it's members working. Oh, wait, that is exactly what even the UAW has done recently.

Walk into your local union shop and observe Their level of productivity versus the rest of the real world.

You are just attempting to be insulting with this statement and I will not take this thing from your hand.
posted by Mitheral at 9:48 AM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't know if I buy that list of conservative contributors. I can certainly believe that Domino's Pizza or Chik-fil-A contributes to conservatives, but Nordstrom, Pier One Imports and Williams Sonoma are all listed at 97-100%.
posted by electroboy at 10:43 AM on April 11, 2011


"Don't they always? And when they price themselves out of the market, they'll go "boo-hoo-hoo, they took our jobs to China." These bozos should get down on their knees, crawl through the mud, and thank Ingvar Kamprad that they're able to feed their families. Instead, they're desperate to turn their town into the next Detroit. Good luck guys!"

Detroit's main problem was and to some degree still is their crappy, poorly designed and engineered, unreliable cars. Note that many, many cars are still manufactured in high-cost Japan and western Europe.
posted by aerotive at 10:55 AM on April 11, 2011


This is enlightening, especially the comments from the locals. I hope they don't lose this company like so many others.

http://www2.godanriver.com/news/2010/dec/18/union-decries-swedwood-conditions-ar-725063/
posted by crushedhope at 12:03 PM on April 11, 2011


It's OK, Swedish people, the North American branch of your company is just treating our workforce in the ways in which they are accustomed. The working conditions may seem backward to you, but you're from a much different culture and you should respect our differences.
posted by mikeh at 12:26 PM on April 11, 2011


leverage the unbelievable power of the social networks

FTFM (Me).

Too utopian and overcooked granted. The point was simply that they need to retool and renew and find new strategies.

Sure, what can replace 100k in people descending to a state capital, but as impressive as that was, what good is it when a Fox news channel will not report it objectively and say it was riot and continues to blow propaganda out it's ass 24/7?

Although I am not an expert, I think there's a way for the labor movement in to retain it's history and foundations, yet get some state-of-the-art high-tech communications to build, organize and connect etc.

They only care about what they can get today, with no concern for the future. Walk into your local union shop and observe Their level of productivity versus the rest of the real world.

Baloney.

They're not perfect, but methinks this stinks too much of the Right-wing narrative.

All unions are not alike, anymore than all companies are alike, and I'm going to say that the unions, since the 80s have been continually cutting back on expectations and working in conjunction with companies to see to it there's success all around, if anything, I wonder if it is that willingness to compromise and be flexible to the needs of management that has made them appear to look weak and ripe for the predations of the Right acting as hit men for business.

I personally took a number of products offshore to maintain profit levels that were necessary to keep stock values high enough for company expansion.

This, right here, perfectly encapsulates the problem with this country and points the finger right at the responsible parties: Wall Street.

The stoke the fear companies have of going under if they don't keep expanding and expanding and producing higher dividends and returns for investors and the top echelon execs and their obscenely bloated pay packages.

The short term profits always taking away from a long term vision and long term prosperity. Wall Street needs to canabalize and destroy parts of companies every quarter for those people and the ultimate cost to a company and a workforce and to the very fabric of country is untenable and everything and everyone suffers on the way down the tube: R&D, a quality healthy workforce, towns that dependc on jobs, tax revenues which leads to cuts in education, and it's a vicious shitshow that spirals ever downward.

It's a fucking disgusting joke is what it is, and Wall Street and the brokers, the investors, and the top echelon rolling in obscene pay packages, should be taxed out the ass everytime it destroys any of those things, but instead it's rewarded for it because they own the people in power who need their filthy lucre and they own the loudest media voices.

It's like a sick joke and somethings got to give, in 2008 the country saw in the starkest terms just how fucked that system is and how it will keep taking until it destroys the economy and takes everything down a hole with it, and yet, you'd think the Right and it's minions were in a spell verging on insanity to hold even more tightly to these elements of the all perfect and all holy sacred eternally regnerative Free Market.

Give me a fucking break.
posted by Skygazer at 3:41 PM on April 11, 2011


I'm going to say that the unions are perfect, but....
posted by Skygazer at 3:43 PM on April 11, 2011


All unions are not alike, anymore than all companies are alike, and I'm going to say that the unions, since the 80s have been continually cutting back on expectations and working in conjunction with companies to see to it there's success all around, if anything, I wonder if it is that willingness to compromise and be flexible to the needs of management that has made them appear to look weak and ripe for the predations of the Right acting as hit men for business.

Sorry to say it's too little, too late.
The exodus started in the 80's, and while I'm neither right or left, I was sorry to take those products to China, but it was necessary for company survival. The middle aged union workers we're making more than me and even the VP, and unwilling to compromise even after months of meetings with the union. Yes we realized profits from the labor cost reduction, but even more revealing was the 28% increase in productivity.
As in Danville, the sooner we realize that we are now "Third world" the sooner we can change the root cause of our problems. Should our economy make it to 2012, it's going to be change before hope.
posted by crushedhope at 6:19 PM on April 11, 2011


The middle aged union workers we're making more than me and even the VP, and unwilling to compromise even after months of meetings with the union. Yes we realized profits from the labor cost reduction, but even more revealing was the 28% increase in productivity.

That's a weird situation. If you were in business strategy or manufacturing design or widget quality control or what have you , it's strange the people on the floor or whatever would be making more than you or the VP.

The problem there isn't so much they're making more than you, but that the execs put that layer of middle management in there who can't, or won't unionize, and have to hit extreme productivity and insane profitability milestones or get canned.

As I said earlier, this country is literally being mined and harvested for all the richness that has been built into it as a nation and dismantled, and something much cheaper, much poorer in value is being put in the place of what is originally there and companies are literally being paid by the taxpayers of this country to do so.

And it's happening right in front of the nations eyes while it sits narcotized by porn, Fox media, HFCS besotted products making people diabetic in record time, religion and bullshit.
posted by Skygazer at 8:24 PM on April 11, 2011


The problem there isn't so much they're making more than you, but that the execs put that layer of middle management in there who can't, or won't unionize, and have to hit extreme productivity and insane profitability milestones or get canned.

The pay they made was only a reference to the unions power. The real issue was that a nominal productivity rate of 80% was Never achieved in that plant. Their best was 57%. As for profit, several products were loss leaders for two years before the move to China. I still wonder what we could have done to prevent closing the plant, but it seemed that the union entitlement attitude overshadowed everything we tried.
posted by crushedhope at 9:46 PM on April 11, 2011


crushedhope writes "The middle aged union workers we're making more than me and even the VP"

Why is this a problem?
posted by Mitheral at 9:50 PM on April 11, 2011


Today's Danville Register & Bee has a front page story on this issue.
posted by cropshy at 1:24 PM on April 13, 2011


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