Tag Archives: Richmond

The So-Called Transit Referendum: Don’t Be Duped!

Mulgrew: Costly Transit police force takes taxpayers for a rideBy
Emily Griffiths

The Transit referendum “Yes” campaign has been asserting itself all over Facebook, Twitter, neighbourhood news boxes, and I can’t help but ask myself, Since when is increasing a flat tax a leftist thing to do?

Oh! The word “transit” has been attached to the newest proposed consumer flat tax increase, therefore rendering it “left” and “sustainable”. Have we forgotten that the poorest members of our community are already shelling out $91-$170/ month just to be able to ride a crowded bus to work and back without risk of being detained by over zealous transit police (the only armed transit police in Canada)?

These transit thugs in bullet proof vests just love detaining non-white Lower Mainlanders, corroborating with Border Patrol, and imprisoning suspected immigrants. Heaven forbid one try to save some grocery money by risking the month without a bus pass. A lost profit of $2.75 for Translink can result in a $173 fine for the already struggling rider. Heaven forbid you speak English with an accent, for your fate could be much worse. (Read about Lucia Vega Jimenez).

In all this talk of “transit” improvements, where is the case for free transit? Instead, fellow “leftists” on our Twitter feeds are regurgitating Mayor’s Council propaganda to achieve an ongoing increase of our provincial sales tax. I’m not sure about every “leftist”, but I myself am not one to support Gregor Robertson and developer funded city council. Why would I trust the gash-grab excuses of the same folks who are destroying the DTES, China Town, and Grandview-Woodlands for unaffordable condo development?

Why would I trust that the Provincial Government, run by Christy Clark and made up of conservative “Liberals”, will funnel their new citizen-approved revenue stream into the promised area? I have heard more than my fair share of broken election promises. What makes the transit tax different? After all, there are no legal stipulations that this additional government income must indeed be invested in transit.

The “Yes” campaign rhetoric assures me that this cash will improve Skytrain infrastructure and increase bus service. Are we honestly expected to believe that the money Translink rakes in equals a benefit to transit riders? What about the $200+ million wasted on fare gates and Compass cards, an infrastructure that was already proven a failure in Chicago?

What about the salaries of transit cops? The minimum annual salary for a Transit Police officer is $75,000, with more than one third making over $100,000. What about the mere existence of transit cops? What about the salaries of Translink Officials? Translink CEO Ian Jarvis raked in $468,015 in 2013. Sure, this salary may be on par with other multimillion dollar corporation CEO’s, but should PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION really be rendered into a for-profit company?

I am confused as to why we are being asked to pay more money for transit. We already pay 12% provincial and general sales tax. What is this covering, if not basic infrastructure like transit, roads, and bikeways? I know some of it must go to other essentials like health care and education, but then why is our health system resorting to corporate sponsorship (#BellLetsTalk) or emotionally manipulative attempts at securing private donations (those tear jerker bus ads for Children’s Hospital), and why are schools being consistently underfunded, with ever increasing class sizes, less support for children with special needs, and teachers being bled dry when they try to stand up for their collective rights? If our tax money isn’t going to healthcare, education and infrastructure, where is it going? Perhaps it’s not more money our governments need, but better priorities.

And if it really is more money that our local and provincial governments need, why not lay off on all those corporate tax cuts (HootSuite, property developers) and we can get a little more money out of the multimillion dollar companies benefiting from the same infrastructural improvements that we residents will be. Doesn’t Telus need their employees to get to work? Doesn’t HootSuite want better bike lanes, to move employees and to enhance their green hipster branding? Won’t property developers be thrilled when new Skytrain stations pop up in Surrey, Guildford, Newton and Langley, providing perfect sites for new clusters of expensive glass high rises?

Our big corporate neighbours are all too keen on showing their sense of “community” and scoring the big tax breaks on their public philanthropy. What better way to show your dedication to the community than pay more taxes? Sadly, corporations don’t want to put their cash towards anything they can’t put their name on. Would Vancouver World of Science sound anywhere as good as Telus World of Science?

And what about income tax? There are residents of the lower mainland bringing in huge skrilla each year. Why can’t these folks contribute a little more towards the infrastructure that helps them get rich? A 0.5% increase of flat taxes hurts those earning $8,000/year a lot more than those earning upwards of $500,000. This is an old argument. It strikes me as incredibly odd that this criticism isn’t popping up more. Is Tax the Rich such an absurd slogan that no self-respecting politician will even mention it? What about any self-respecting “leftist”?

Emily Griffiths is a writer, performer, and child care worker, living on unceded Coast Salish Territories. Stay tuned for her upcoming book, Disney Dream Machine.

Occupy IKEA’s #HouseRules

IKEA’s #HouseRules = union busting!

Oh, IKEA, you’d think you’d learn from all the past corporate attempts to create a Twitter hashtag to promote your brand, attempts that have been subverted by culture jammers.

Maybe IKEA will get away with this one, #HouseRules, but in the spirit of the Occupy Movement rebooting on Friday with the #WaveOfAction, we should try to Occupy IKEA and their hashtag because they’re trying to break their union in Richmond, BC.

Let’s see how:

Continue reading Occupy IKEA’s #HouseRules

IKEA’s (Sad) Spin Reply to My Boycott Letter

Solidarity means an attack on one is an offense to all!

So if you have sent your letter to IKEA explaining why you are boycotting them for locking out their Richmond workers for 10 weeks, you may have received this precious reply from the corporation, below. I will re-spin it down there, but first I need to talk about words.

For IKEA, “strike” is Swedish for “lockout.”

It thinks it’s being clever disputing the word, but it has locked out its employees for 10 weeks now. It started as a one-hour lockout after which the workers were invited back, but only if they accept the inferior contract they had already voted down. If IKEA had never locked out its workers, a strike may have happened. Letting workers re-enter only under inferior terms means the employer is defining the conditions for return. That, friends, is a lockout.

Bear that in mind as we drift through the IKEA spin email to convince me that it still loves its employees, despite wanting to reduce wages and benefits and contract out work, all while having earned $3.85 billion in profit in 2011.

Below is the re-spin. IKEA’s email is in italics, my responses aren’t. Emphasis is mine.

Subject: IKEA Contact

Date: Mon, 22 Jul 2013 17:52:55 -0400 (EDT)

From: IKEA CANADA <support@ikeaservice.ca>

To: stephen elliott-buckley <stephen@politicsrespun.org>

Hello Mr. Elliott-Buckley,

Thank you for contacting IKEA Canada. We appreciate your feedback with regards to the current labour dispute in Richmond; however, it is unfortunate that you have been misinformed regarding the agreement that was offered to our valuable co-workers.

  • Misinformed? Right. Let’s see how.

We have been bargaining in good faith for six months with the Union representing our Richmond store co-workers; but, we remain at an impasse. Throughout this dispute, IKEA’s goal has been for a quick, reasonable and equitable contract resolution for all concerned. That being said, under the recent advice of The BC Labour Relations Board, both parties have agreed to meet with a mediator to try to reach a settlement. Those meetings are now underway.

  • Good faith bargaining is really subjective.
  • I agree with its desire for a quick settlement. After the lockout it reduced its offer in stages so the sooner workers capitulated, the less they’d have to suffer. That’s called bargaining in reverse.
  • Reasonable: subjective, as is equitable. Employers often like to define concessions as equitable. Did I mention IKEA made $3.85 billion in profit in 2011? How do you define equitable? And if IKEA wants all concerned to feel a contract resolution is equitable, I wonder what would make the workers think concessions are reasonable and equitable.

Please be assured that IKEA continues to be committed to providing our co-workers with employment conditions that meet or exceed industry standards. We will not waiver from this commitment under any circumstances.

  • Industry standards. This is really important. This means that IKEA has been paying its workers higher than some kind of average, or some number someone asserts as an industry standard. Its goal in forcing concessions is to ensure it still meets or exceeds [by less] such a standard. That is called a race to the bottom. Others are paid less, therefore by definition, IKEA is paying too much. That, ladies and gentlemen, is why we have foreign sweatshops.

However, we think it’s important for you to know that we offer wages that are well above the industry standard and none of our co-workers will have a reduction in wages under the new agreement. IKEA Richmond offers very competitive paid benefits for both full-time and part-time co-workers as well as generous sick day eligibility for both full-time and part-time workers at levels unheard of in the retail industry.

  • Here, IKEA is being more explicit that it is paying its workers too much above the industry standard, which, by the way, it doesn’t define. What is the industry standard, BC’s minimum wage?
  • I also believe IKEA when it says none will have a wage reduction. What it doesn’t mention is that in a new 2-tiered wage system, new hires will work for less doing the same job. This is how that works: over time, the new hires outnumber the old ones and the new lower wage becomes the norm and the old wage earners are disappeared.
  • I believe IKEA that it offers benefits and sick days. Its email doesn’t mention that it will reduce eligibility for benefits. Levels unheard of in the retail industry? Sorry, I had to recover from the vapours after reading that. IKEA doesn’t mention what those levels are, or why it is so much better in the industry. But again, even if it’s true according to some kind of meaningful measurement, all it is really saying is that it wants its employees to not be such an awesome outlier and fit in with the rest of the industry–and save some loot and pad their $3.85 billion profit some more.

On behalf of IKEA, there is nothing more we want than to return to business as usual and welcome our co-workers back into the store so we can return to what we do best – providing outstanding service and products to our loyal customers. It is our hope that mediation will assist in reaching a settlement. IKEA Richmond cares about its co-workers and we understand this is a difficult time; however, they are welcome to return to work anytime.

  • Any employer that says it cares about its workers after locking them out, bargaining backwards, then continuing forcing a concessionary contract needs to look up some kind of definition of caring.
  • A difficult time. What a disturbingly innocuous phrase. That’s like a political leader sending soldiers “into harm’s way” as if harm is like the rain or gravity or something. I wonder who created this difficult time. It is not like a hurricane or a flood in Calgary or Toronto, or some kind of earthquake. Difficulties just don’t occur. Someone started this one: IKEA.

Thank you again for sharing your feedback with us.


IKEA Canada

  •  Sure, thanks for that.

Ikea’s Union-Busting Lockout in Richmond, BC Reaches Two Months

Is Walmart Ikea's labour relations mentor?
Is Walmart Ikea’s labour relations mentor?

Ikea, that family-friendly darling of home decor and Swedish innocence is trying to break its union, Teamsters Local 213.

They have locked out their Richmond, BC workers for two months now, while deciding to bargain in reverse: Start with a pathetic offer, then as time goes by, if locked out workers don’t come back, the concessions and contract stripping INCREASE!

By the way, Ikea’s 2011 profit was $3.85 billion. Profit, not revenue. Again, not enough money for the family-owned company! Its founder is worth $52 billion.

Tia reviewed Ikea’s anti-social shenanigans when the lockout hit Day 17. Her piece detailed some of the issues and helped us understand what we can do to help the workers while Ikea tries to smash their union here, before likely taking on their only other unionized store in Canada, in Montreal. This lockout is also an attempt to undermine other union organizing drives, despite the 70% unionization rate of Ikea workers in Sweden.

One thing we can do is to boycott every Ikea in the world, particularly the ones in Richmond and Coquitlam. We can also Occupy Ikea at a rally on July 20 at 11am. Here’s a poster for the rally.

And here are a few other things we should keep in mind.

  1. The BC minimum wage is $10.25/hour, but less if you get tips on the job, minimum wage is $9/hour. This increase in 2012 came after the minimum wage was frozen at $8 for a decade under the business-friendly government.
  2. The living wage in Vancouver is, however, $19.62.
  3. In Washington, DC, the city council passed a living wage by-law [see below] DESPITE Walmart [Ikea’s labour relations mentor] threatening to cancel 3 stores planned for the area.

Should the bill be signed by Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) and pass a congressional review period, retailers with corporate sales of $1 billion or more and operating in spaces 75,000 square feet or larger would be required to pay employees no less than $12.50 an hour. The city’s minimum wage is $8.25, a dollar higher than the federal minimum wage.

via D.C. Council approves ‘living wage’ bill over Wal-Mart ultimatum – The Washington Post.

If Washington, DC can face down Walmart threats to support a living wage, we should be proud of them and stand up for worker solidarity internationally.

And while we’re figuring out how to fight the repression of the working class, check out this Ikea management training video:

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.

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?


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.