5:49pm

Tue April 12, 2011
The Two-Way

Ikea, Known As Good Employer, Faces Plenty Of Worker Complaints In U.S.

The report is a few days old, now, but it's a story worth a read, so we'll pass it along: The Los Angeles Times reported Sunday that Ikea, the home-furnishing giant long thought of as an exemplary employer, is facing a laundry list of complaints from its United States employees. Three years after it opened a factory in Virginia, the company has now been slapped with multiple racial discrimination complaints, high turnover from disgruntled employees and an attempt to unionize by its workers.

The Times reports that one employee said the conditions were so demanding, she quit after six months to take a lower paying retail job. The paper reports that after workers tried to start a union by signing a card, Ikea hired a law firm with a reputation for keeping unions out of companies.

Here's an interesting view from the union perspective:

Bill Street, who has tried to organize the Danville workers for the machinists union, said Ikea was taking advantage of the weaker protections afforded to U.S. workers.

"It's ironic that Ikea looks on the U.S. and Danville the way that most people in the U.S. look at Mexico," Street said.

The Times reports that while the worker complaints have gotten little notice in the U.S., they've been front-page news in Sweden, where the company is based. The labor force there is unionized and Ikea is a "cherished institution."

In Sweden, Ikea's workers make $19 an hour and receive a government-mandated five weeks of vacation. In the U.S., employees make $8 an hour and get 12 vacation days.

When the Times contacted Ikea in Sweden, a spokweswoman said the situation in Virginia was "sad."

Like we said, click over to the Times, because the piece is worth a read. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.