Workers at an IKEA distribution center in Perryville, Maryland last week voted to join and be represented by the International Association of Machinist (IAM). Better than 60 percent of those participating in the union representation election overseen by the National Labor Relations Board voted for the IAM. The Perryville workers became the second group of IKEA workers to go union.
IKEA’s international code of conduct, IWAY, demands that its suppliers follow a strict labor code that among other things guarantees workers the right to join and be represented by a union of their choice and to engage freely in collective bargaining. But according to the IAM and the Building and Wood Workers International (BWI), a worldwide confederation of labor unions, IKEA actively opposed the Perryville workers’ organizing campaign.
“The new IAM members were able to see through the scare tactics,” said Joe Flanders, IAM District 4 Business Representative. According to the Flanders and BWI, these scare tactics included threats of job losses, union supporters being individually called into management offices for questioning about their union support, and surveillance of union supporters by security guards hired by IKEA.
IKEA also hired Jackson Lewis a well-known union avoidance law firm to advise it after the union organizing drive got underway.
BWI characterized these actions as “violations of the International Labor Organization’s core labor standards and the IWAY.”
Flanders said that the Perryville workers were inspired by the recent victory of workers at an IKEA furniture building plant in Danville, Virginia, who last summer voted to join IAM and in December ratified their first collective bargaining contract, which improves health and safety, establishes a joint labor management team to give workers a voice in decisions affecting their jobs, and establishes just cause due process rights for workers.
IKEA’s Perryville distribution center employs about 350 people, including about 300 who are considered to be part of the collective bargaining unit. In all, about 1,300 workers staff the six IKEA distribution centers located in North America. In addition to Perryville, distribution centers are located in Brossard, Quebec; Savannah, Georgia; Tejon, California; Tacoma, Washington; and Westhampton, New Jersey. IKEA also plans to open a distribution center in Joliet, Illinois.
The distribution centers are key components of IKEA’s highly touted supply chain, whose efficiency and timeliness play an important role in IKEA’s success. Last year, IKEA recorded net income of $2.97 billion euros (about $4 billion), a 10 percent increase over 2010.
The National Labor Relations Board has ten days to certify the results of the election. If there are no appeals, bargaining could begin soon after certification. “We set up a process for working to develop a bargaining committee,” Flanders told the Cecil (MD) Whig. “Negotiations should take a month or two.”