Profits Before People: Richmond Ikea Lockout Enters Day 17

 

Boycott Ikea

Generating enough media spin to rival a jet engine at take off, the management and PR folks at Ikea Canada want you to believe that their poor little corporation is being held hostage by greedy, soulless union workers in Richmond.

Woe. 
Pity poor Ikea.

It’s tough being a multi-national corporation with a reputation for  union busting, still more union busting and sundry  human rights violations. It is also expensive to flog the entire planet with particle board, Allen Keys and horsemeat tainted foodstuffs. You can’t expect them to provide “coworkers” with a safe, fair and equitable place to work. After all, you can’t have your faecal contaminated Tarta Chokladkrokant and eat it too.

Bottom lines, people. Bottom. Lines.

Meanwhile, back in Lotusland, 300+ workers of the mega-Ikea store in Richmond are embroiled in a rapidly degenerating labor dispute. Members of the Teamsters Local #213 are locked out, and the store continues to skeleton crew it, while management utters threats in the news about further reducing the contract on the table if their slaves picketing staff doesn’t roll over and take the pounding.

(Source: CKNW)

It looks like some assembly may be required as things get tense in a labour dispute between some 300 union workers and management at the Richmond Ikea.

Manager Janet McGowan says the store has been operating on limited hours as Teamsters take job action.

But McGowan says they will now play hardball by gradually reducing the contract on the table if the union doesn’t sign soon, “So, on June 3rd, our co-workers would have a phase one offer that they could, in fact, be accepting and then we would give co-workers an additional five days before implementation of phase two and then an additional five days before the implementation of the phase three.”

Phase one would see a 500-dollar signing bonus go bye-bye, by phase three paid sick days would be cut in half.

If Ikea is so moral and fair, as their media relations people would have you think, why have the staff overwhelmingly rejected not one, not two, but THREE different offers by the company to date?

Simple.

Ikea is attempting to drag workers back into the dark ages. Not just because they’re cheap, but because, according to their  track record, they also enjoy it.

(Never mind that Richmond-area retail workers reside in one of the most expensive cities in the world. It’s not like they have homes or families, right? Who needs to eat?)

Ikea is not about ensuring fair living wages. It’s about profit. Not people.

Primary contract issues, per Teamsters Local 213′s Facebook page:

  • re-introduction of multi-tiered wage systems
  • removal of hour guarantees
  • benefit reductions
  • contract work out schemes
  • many other concessions

I stand in solidarity with these men and women on the picket line.

Having been locked out by my employer  for over a month in the summer of 2000, I understand what these people are going through.
Spending your nights and days on a picket line, in all kinds of weather, all times of day, and not knowing what comes next is scary.

Here is what happens:

The first few days are adrenaline-fueled and high-energy. There is solidarity. There is power in numbers. Everyone is prepared to stick it to the man.

As time slithers on, and the rhetoric from the employer grows increasingly hostile, infighting starts. Division.

People start to blame each other. Blame the union. Question whether they made the right choice.  Side with the employer. Discomfort and unknowns don’t bring out the best in people.

When weeks near months, people become afraid. Union stipends/wage replacements are not enough in Vancouver. People start looking for other jobs.

The ones who hang in there start to feel guilt, and become compelled to accept whatever comes down the pipe from corporate, just to end the sustained duress.

The media portrays the workers as lazy, ignorant and willfully spiteful. Goodwill diminishes. There is a lack of public support.

The union organizers work hard to rally, but the morale just isn’t there, and their job grows increasingly difficult.

They need support. Your support. Our support. These are families and community members, not a faceless corporate entity.

Ways in which we can help boost the cause of the locked out Ikea workers in Richmond/Teamsters Local 213:

  • Boycott  Richmond Ikea. Don’t shop there. Don’t give them your money.
  • Boycott ALL Ikea locations. Don’t go running down the road to Coquitlam. (The breakfast is cheap for a reason.)
  • Don’t cross their picket lines. Ever.
  • Walk the picket line WITH them.
  • Bring by some food and beverage, especially if it is really hot or really cold.
  • If the weather becomes inclement, pop by with some shelter or weather related implements like umbrellas, ponchos or sunblock.
  • Respond to online editorials, radio talk shows, newspaper articles that spin in favour of Ikea and demonize labor unions/workers.
  • Use social media to counter the spin.
  • Write to them and let them know you support the workers.

Keep fighting the good fight, folks. Remind them that people need to come BEFORE profit.

 

 

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Tia is a mystery, wrapped in an enigma and covered in a crunchy candy coating of genuine British Columbian snark. She is currently exiled to Winnipeg for an unknown duration of time.

30 thoughts on “Profits Before People: Richmond Ikea Lockout Enters Day 17”

  1. Thank you, thank you, thank you. You have no idea – or maybe you do – how much this meant to me and will mean to the others. You got it in a nutshell. I appreciate you more than you know.

  2. Thank you so much for those words!! I feel as one of the employees on that picket line I can say you have spoken the words and thoughts of “the many”. It’s not about wanting more from this company, that in part we felt was mostly about family and unity and working together for a common goal. It’s about surviving and keeping atleast what we have fought for already. Thank you again it’s motivating to stay united!!

  3. good for IKEA. Unions have pushed too far and are crippling the economy in the US. Freedom not socialism

    1. Yawn.

      Stereotypical American is stereotypical.

      Feed the trolls? Why not.

      Seriously, could you come up with something more canned and pat beyond invoking the horrors of socialism?
      Do they teach you a course in school with texts on how to respond to the dangerous socialist scum waiting to cut the throat of freedom?

      I can just see it in the syllabus:
      “Them’s Fightin’ Werds 101: An’ All ‘Murcain Guide To Fightin’ Red Commies.”
      “Unions n’ Immigrants Is That’s Wrong With Godless ‘Murica.”
      “A Fair Living Wage Is Satanic.”
      “Gubbermint Health Care Is Fer Sissies.”

  4. Thanks for the heads-up on this. I won’t be buying anything at IKEA until and unless they settle this reasonably. Have to laugh at the comment from jumpeight. According to a report released yesterday by St. Louis Fed’s new Center for Household Financial Stability, “Average household wealth in real terms, contrary to recent headlines, has not fully recovered; indeed it is only about halfway back to prerecession levels.” 45%, to be precise, but, sure, blame the greedy unions. What an idiot! Jennifer, if Richmond wasn’t so far away by transit I’d be bringing you guys coffee.

    1. Despite the coverage by several news outlets at the onset, people seem to have missed this. Drowned by provincial elections? Either way, I’m sure the Ikea workers appreciate the solidarity and support. Thanks for your comments!

  5. Thanks for letting us know about this Tia. I will not be shopping at an Ikea anytime soon!

    To the Richmond Ikea workers. Best of luck to you. Be strong. Know that what you do, you do for all of the working class, whether they realise it or not.

  6. I have worked at Ikea Richmond for over 10 years now and have been pretty happy for the most part. I’ve had good times, met lot of great people and have been treated well. The company inspired me with their vision: “A better everyday life for the many.” Who wouldn’t love that? Inclusion, positivity and particleboard; everyone wins!

    This labour dispute has ripped away any truth within this vision for me. I am heartbroken and disappointed.

    What is happening right now has completely made me lose my faith in the Canadian organization. I’m not sure which has been worse: the threats, the bullying, the “deteriorating contract” offer or the downright unconscionable tactics? A highlight came in a letter from store manager Janet McGowan. She encouraged me, “to call the Canadian Labour Watch Association (1-888-652-2687) to get independent information about your rights and responsibilities.” It took me all of 2 minutes on Google to determine that this is a private company that is historically anti-union with no affiliation to the Labour Board whatsoever. They are known for union busting. Yet another insult to my intelligence.

    So thank you so much Tia for your article. It gives me hope that there are people out there that can see truth.

    1. I agree. The manipulation and bullying tactics are despicable. I am intrigued about management imploring people to call Canadian Labor Watch, and their hx of being involved in union busting. Dirty.
      Thank you for your comments. I see you’re still walking the picket out there a month later. That’s amazing!

  7. I’m an Australian coworker at our store in Melbourne that share’s Richmond’s name, Richmond. We are lucky here, our wages are good and our benefits are fine, and I feel fairly secure in that. But this breaks my heart to see. I love my job, have been in the company for two years now, and have met some of my closest friends here. I would hate to be put in the position the management have put these coworkers in, and one coworker to many, though with a heavy heart, I support the cause. How sad, that it’s come to this for all these coworkers. I hope it all works out for the best.

    1. It is heartening to hear that your store is equitable and a decent place to work. I hope it remains that way, and I’m sure that your Canadian counterparts appreciate your long-distance support in these difficult times.

    1. Thanks for your comments, Moonlessnite. I have incredible parents who taught me the value of organized labor and it’s importance in the workplace. I remember my father being locked out/picketing in my youth, and my mother being involved with her union on the local level for many years.

  8. Wow Tia…how much did the union pay you to blog about the situation with IKEA. You need to recheck your sources because all your information is wrong. It’s shocking really how few laws there are to protect businesses from the smut/lies put forward by union leaders. The situation in Richmond is a strike voted by the union leaders not a lockout. There was only one hour of the first day that was a lockout from the IKEA side only because IKEA wanted to give their employees the option of working instead of striking. Don’t just listen to the garbage the unions are telling you…get the real proof. Wages in the Richmond store are higher then that of almost all retailers. The union is threatening the employees there to strike..with treats of legal reprecussions and so forth. At the same time they force all those employees to lose their benefits (medical coverage) and take a wage of $250 per week to strike. Does that sound like the union is taking care of the employees? This entire post is garbage…too bad for you if you beleive it. Smart people would do their research… bad Tia…very bad. By the way…all the posts on here so far that are positive are from union teamsters. What a crock!

    1. ALL my sources are wrong? Krikey. Have you got a copy of the contract for me to review? A real name and some credentials I can follow up with? If you have *proof* of the *lies* and want to set the record straight, I’d be happy to interview you.

      No?

      Oh.

      And, for the record, not all of the people commenting are Teamsters, friend. Check your sources.

    2. Hi there Johnny. Yes, they did technically only lock us out for one hour, but then strategically invited us back on their terms as a classic “union-busting” move. Unfortunately I have something called integrity which prevents me from crossing a picket line and becoming a scab. The way I see it, I don’t even have the option of crossing the line to go back to work. The store needs to sit down with the union in GOOD FAITH and work something out because no one is winning in this situation.

      And you should really get your facts straight. The union is not “forcing” us to lose our medical coverage. 83% of the bargaining unit voted in favour of a strike and as a union member, I stand behind that regardless of how I voted as an individual. It’s called looking out for each other and not putting yourself first. And another fact you can check is how much we make while on strike/lockout. The $250 you claim we get is incorrect (by quite a bit actually). The union pays me well. I also have lots of time to work another job and take care of my family.

      So Johnny, please remember that your negativity is poison and only spreads more negativity. Try to do something positive with your time and I guarantee you will be a happier person in life. You might even make a few other people happy along the way.

    3. hi johnny,

      did you know that ikea’s global profit in 2012 was €3.2 billion. in 2009 it was €2.5 billion. that’s profit, not revenue.

      why do the workers in richmond deserve wage and benefit rollbacks? ikea is not broke. it is swimming in billions in profit.

      http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2013/jan/23/ikea-profits-rise-2012
      http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/retailandconsumer/8037637/Ikea-reveals-profits-for-first-time-to-dispel-secretive-image.html

  9. Hi Tia…nice try but lets put it this way then? What are your credentials? What makes you the expert with the situation there? It’s obvious that you are pro union…especially with your response to what I posted. You also talk like a angry teenager…No? Oh. I wouldn’t want to be interviewed by you if my life depended on it…I doubt your ability to see the information presented with non bias. Everyone is allowed there own opinion…but in the matters at which peoples lively hood are at stake…there should only be facts. None of which you have provided…which is sad.

    I’ll give you an example…first off you should tell the truth to the online public. It’s not a lockout…it’s a strike voted by the union. Feel free to call your local canadian labour board as they have the right information. The internet has it’s good and it’s bad like all things…bad Tia…

  10. Last note…you should know your sources well on the replys…a little too well perhaps?? Nothing more to say here…not much of a forum…only if everyone thinks the same as you with the limited amount of data that you have aquired. Low level reporting if you ask me…guess your still in the class stages correct? College perhaps?

  11. Johnny, if you have something like evidence to back up your assertions, produce it. A lot of us are sick to death of the unremitting attacks on unions, and the steady stream of anti-worker propaganda any time there’s labour unrest in this country. Also, how could you possibly know whether people commenting in support of the IKEA workers are Teamsters? You’re blowing smoke, and not even very well.

  12. As a former IKEA Richmond co-worker, I am saddended – and have always been – at the need for a union at the store. Over my 10 years, I witnessed countless examples of the union bullying managers to support coworkers with lacklustre performance because of their seniority. As a hard working coworker, it was frustrating to see less than stellar performance be rewarded because of a grievance. Entitlement without contribution at this store is high.

    I was hired as a medium level coworker with a salary of over $30k/yr, full dental and extended medical benefits, 3% RRSP matching, endless free opportunities for development and training, many opportunities for advancement, and three weeks paid vacation. I traveled abroad many times and learned so much. I absolutely loved it there.
    What more do you want from a job you can get without any post-secondary?

    If a co-worker experienced personal hardship, IKEA would step in and provide additional paid leave, or in two cases, free furniture, food and kind understanding. I witnessed this kindness on several occasions during my nearly 10 years there in addition to holiday parties with plenty of generous gifts for both coworkers and their children.

    IKEA coworkers are being paid over $20 / hour + benefits to serve meatballs, bail cardboard and work a cash register. After 10+ years serving meatballs, no kidding you would be bitter – but that is not IKEA’s fault. IKEA is suggesting that going forward the pay scale be adjusted to reflect competitors wages for the same job. The same opportunities for advancement exist and the same free personal development is available. Those workers will either grow with the organization or move on, making room for new coworkers. That is why they are called ‘entry level positions’. When coworkers spend 25+ years working the cafeteria line (no exaggeration – this is very common at the Richmond store) they block entry level positions for young people who want to get their foot in the door and work their way up.

    It boggles the mind that coworkers are striking for future employees, when these employees will not have the opportunity of employment if entry level positions are jammed with career cardboard recyclers.

    Be clear that IKEA benefits were not gained because of the Richmond union. ALL IKEA stores offer the same wages and benefits no matter where you go. Does anyone remember Oct 9th when IKEA shared all of the profits with us that day? The feeling we all had, working together as a global team? When you work, you create jobs, you help the economy and you feel a sense of contribution. When you strike, you limit your potential.

    What a shame and a waste of talent. Instead, IKEA coworkers unite and show them how extraordinary you really are: Get what you deserve through a good honest days work. The union has taken your money and left you with their inflated sense of entitlement. The union is looking for a reason to justify itself. Please see that the union is using you to forward their own causes and line their own pockets.

    The current structure is not sustainable. The turnover is virtually non-existent at the Richmond store and has been for years. If coworkers don’t want to leave, why are they so miserable?

    Frankly, I think IKEA has spoiled them and the union knows the coworker culture at the Richmond store is one of absolute entitlement from the years of union bullying to get its way.

    Unlike Ms Everitt, I actually have facts and experience as a coworker. I was very proud of the work I did during my time there. It has helped my career so much to have the diverse experiences of working in an IKEA store.

    Go back to work – either at IKEA or somewhere else. But get on with it or you may grow old and bitter sitting outside with your hand out. Believe me – the union will not give a fig what becomes of you.

    1. thanks for your comment. a few questions, though.

      have you ever seen a grievance filed that was worthy? i assume there were some. grievances that are questionable are things that the union membership should bring up internally with their executive, as they undermine the union’s credibility.

      many of your other comments indicate the kinds of behaviour that gave ikea its reputation as a good corporate citizen.

      how is it that you can argue that the union is blocking entry level positions, when it is clear that the company wants to hire many new people? the whole point of union solidarity is not to split itself internally by allowing a two-tier wage system. a tenet of just employment is that everyone gets paid the same for doing the same job. in the past it was men who got paid more than women for the same job for a variety of sexist reasons. now the idea is that new hires should make less because they are new? equally unjust.

      why would you want to work as a unionized employee if your view is that people are overpaid and need to earn as little as competitors, many of whom are poorly treated. there likely is a good middle management position for in any number of corporations that want to keep workers from earning a living wage. http://www.policyalternatives.ca/livingwage2013

      and technically, the union isn’t on strike. they are locked out because they would not re-enter the store to work for an imposed inferior contract. this is the employer’s choice. that’s what a lock out is.

      i don’t want you to determine what people deserve. you already think they’re overpaid and ungrateful. and if you also think they deserve less than a living wage, i can’t respect your sense of what they deserve.

      unions: bullies, money takers, sense of entitlement, seeking justification, using its members, lining their pockets. you are a union buster. stop pretending to have sincere advice for workers.

      the current structure contributes to the billions in profit for ikea. i don’t know how you would consider that unsustainable unless you think they should be making billions more and the workers making less than a living wage. your bias is clear.

      i don’t think your advice to avoid growing old and bitter is very credible. you sound very very bitter. if you think the workers are sitting around with their hands out, you don’t understand the issues. at all.

      this is a really sad comment.

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