Workers at the Stoughton, Massachusetts IKEA store on November 16 held a one-day strike after IKEA management refused to recognize their union.
“Instead of doing what’s right, IKEA has chosen to fight hard-working employees,” said Chris DeAngelo, one of the striking workers. “That is wrong. All we want is the chance to earn a better life. We wish IKEA would honor its own policy and respect workers’ rights.”
The strike took place in the store’s Good Flow In Department, the department responsible for implementing IKEA’s business strategy of getting goods from suppliers to store shelves as quickly as possible.
As a result of the strike, newly arrived goods remained unloaded in trucks outside the store.
In a media release, the workers’ union, United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCU), said that the strike shut down normal store operations.
The strike began Monday morning at 2:00 A.M. when the workers walked off their jobs and began picketing the store.
The previous week, workers in the Good Flow In department presented a union authorization petition signed by 75 percent of the department’s 33 workers and requested that management recognize their union and bargain collectively.
At that point, IKEA could have acknowledged that an overwhelming majority of the department’s workers wanted a union and wanted to bargain collectively over wages and working conditions.
Instead, the company refused, sparking the strike,
IKEA, a company based in Sweden with stores and distribution centers all over the world, promotes itself as a socially responsible corporation committed to social and environmental justice.
IKEA’s internal code of conduct states that employees have the right join a union of their choice and bargain collectively, but IKEA management in Stoughton has actively worked to prevent workers from joining a union.
“The (strike action) highlights a failure to follow IKEA Group policies, which explicitly state support for the right of workers to bargain collectively and join a union of their choice in the company’s internal code of conduct,” said UFCW’s media statement.
IKEA’s anti-union actions began almost as soon as the workers began talking about forming a union.
In June, the National Labor Relations board charged IKEA with interfering with the Stoughton workers organizing attempts.
“My co-workers and I came together to make IKEA better because we love our jobs and we believe in the company’s values,” said IKEA worker Nancy Goetz in June after the NLRB charged IKEA. “In other countries, IKEA works collaboratively with the workers’ unions to solve problems. I never thought that IKEA would allow supervisors to intimidate and interrogate us. I expected more from IKEA. I expected that my rights would be respected.”
In October, the NLRB reached a settlement with IKEA that required the company to post information on the store’s premises informing workers of their right to join a union.
One of the grievances that led to the union organizing campaign is the lack of job security at the store.
“I’ve been here for two years, and I’ve seen them fire a lot of people for no reason,” said Veronica Cabral to the Brockton Enterprise. “I want job security because I have a family to take care of.”
Workers consider the company’s arbitrary attendance policy that does little to recognize family and life commitments outside of work as the main culprit for the many unfair firings at the store.
Shawn Morrison told the Enterprise that minor violations of the attendance policy can easily mount up and lead to a worker being fined.
To make matters worse, a fired worker has no right to appeal the firing even if it is capricious and without merit.
The Stoughton IKEA workers are the first workers at an IKEA store in the US to join a union.
Workers at IKEA’s furniture plant in Danville, Virginia and at two IKEA distribution centers–one in Perryville, Maryland and the other in Savannah, Georgia–have joined the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.
Truthout reports that workers IKEA stores in College Park, Maryland and Seattle, Washington are also trying to form unions and that in response to these organizing drives, IKEA has hired Jackson Lewis, the most prominent union avoidance firm in the US.