IKEA workers rising up

US IKEA workers recently took a petition to the company’s North American headquarters in Conshohocken, Pennsylvania. The petition, signed by 6,000 IKEA workers and customers, asks the international furniture retailer to provide full-time work to all IKEA workers who want it and to raise wages for all IKEA employees.

“I want to have a stable income for my family,” said Martina Morgan, an IKEA employee from Seattle who along with two of her co-workers launched to the petition drive. “I shouldn’t have to work two jobs to make a living and that’s why we started a petition calling on IKEA to provide more full-time jobs.”

Morgan is a single mother, who sometimes works as little as 25 hours a week, and her erratic work schedule makes it difficult for her to be involved in her children’s education.

Dan Stillwell is another IKEA employee facing similar challenges.

“This daily struggle to make ends meet is not right,” writes Stillwell in an Op-Ed piece appearing in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette..

According to Stillwell, he works two jobs but is still one missed paycheck away from financial ruin because his low pay makes it impossible for him to accumulate savings.

“Many of my co-workers are having similar problems and would like to work 40 hours a week,” he adds.

Morgan and Stillwell both said that IKEA has reacted to the strikes and other actions by low-wage retail and fast food workers by raising wages for new hires.

According to the company, IKEA will determine what a living wage is in each region of the US and pay new hires what the company considers to a regional living wage.

For example, beginning January 1, 2015, new hires in the Seattle area will be paid $10.76 an hour.

But the company has said nothing about raising pay for workers who are already on the job.

“Raising starting pay is a step in the right direction, but workers with years of experience may receive no raise at all,” said Morgan. “Investing in co-workers will lead to happier employees, better retention, and higher sales growth. That’s why we’re asking IKEA to offer full-time jobs to every co-worker who wants one and raise pay for all co-workers, not just new hires.”

The campaign for full-time work and a pay raise at IKEA is one in a number of campaigns being supported by Rising Up in Retail, a project of  United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW).

According to UFCW, the retail sector of the economy has been adding more jobs than most other sectors, but many of these jobs don’t pay enough to support a decent standard of living.

“If retail jobs are going to be an integral part of America’s future, then retail jobs must be the kind of jobs that support American families and communities. They must be the kind of jobs that Americans can be proud to work,” said a UFCW statement about Rising Up in Retail on its website.

Some retail workers like those at Seattle’s Macy’s department store already belong to UFCW. These workers are members of UFCW Local 21. In 2012, they negotiated a collective bargaining agreement that raised wages and commission rates, provided for lump sum bonuses, and improved scheduling.

They won a good contract because they stayed united before, during, and after the negotiations and because UFCW members in other cities supported their efforts to win a fair contract.

Rising Up in Retail also supports workers at non-union companies trying to improve their pay and working conditions, such as the IKEA workers who signed the full-time work and higher pay petition.

The delegation of IKEA workers who took the petition to the company headquarters tried to meet with IKEA’s North American CEO Rob Olson.

They had to settle instead for a meeting with company human resource officials.

During their meeting, the IKEA workers said that their petition showed that a united group of workers and customers are ready to stand up for fairness on-the-job at the company’s stores.

The delegation also told the corporate representatives that some IKEA workers have signed letters asking to meet as a group with store managers to discuss on-the-job issues.

In some instances, those who signed the letters have faced retaliation.

The delegation asked that the corporate officials give them assurances that employees who take actions to improve their jobs will not face retaliation.

The corporate officials refused to give them such assurances.

As a result, the delegation declined to hand over the petitions to the company.

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