Solidarity assemblies required: Ikea's union-busting lockout reaches two months

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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 workers in Richmond, BC 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 Everitt 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 per cent 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, D.C., the city council passed a living wage by-law [see below] despite Walmart [Ikea's labour relations mentor] threatening to cancel three 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. ('D.C. Council approves 'living wage' bill over Wal-Mart ultimatum' The Washington Post.)

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

Stephen Elliott-Buckley is a husband, father, former suburban Vancouver high school English and Social Studies teacher who changed careers because the BC Liberal Party has been working hard to ruin public education. 

This article was originally published at Politics Respun and it is reprinted here with permission. 

Photo: Stephen Elliott-Buckley

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