‘In These Times’ Examines IAM Organizing at IKEA

The IAM campaign to organize IKEA-owned facilities in the United States continues to attract media attention here in the U.S. and around the world. The most recent example is an article by writer Bruce Vail in the latest issue of In These Times magazine.

The article examines IAM organizing victories in three of IKEA’s five U.S.-based warehouses, starting with the historic 2011 win in Danville, VA. The most recent organizing victory took place in Westhampton, NJ, where the IAM was certified in October as the bargaining agent for 102 workers following an election conducted by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

Just as important as the organizing wins has been the success of IAM negotiators to quickly secure first contracts.

“I think we did okay with our first contract—we had 87 percent approving it when we had the ratification vote, so that speaks to how the members felt,” said Justin Borrell, a Perryville worker and union activist quoted in Vail’s article.

The Perryville contract contained a $1.50 per hour raise in the first year, and an additional 75 cents per hour in both the second and third years. “With a pre-contract average wage of about $14.50 an hour, the raises are meaningful in the take-home pay of union members,” said Borrell.

Additional organizing campaigns are in the early stages at IKEA’s two remaining U.S. facilities, in Tejon, CA and Tacoma, WA, where elections could take place in 2013, according to District 4 Directing Business Rep Joe Flanders.

The article also examines efforts to bring attention to working conditions at IKEA facilities outside the United States.  

“IKEA likes to think it holds itself to a higher standard, and in many cases they do. But in other cases they don’t,” said IAM Woodworkers Chief of Staff Bill Street in the article. “I went to Poland last month and there is a furniture factory there that has been trying to get a union contract for 10 years. It looks like now they are finally going to get it. So IKEA is finally doing the right thing. But it would be nice if they did the right thing from the beginning.”