Category Archives: labor unions

Virginia Ikea workers vote yes for union

[This article was originally posted on Liberation News]

Victory shows power of solidarity

August 1, 2011

Working-class unity and courageous struggle made the difference for Ikea workers in Danville, Va.

Workers at the first U.S. Ikea factory in Danville, Va., voted in favor of union representation on July 24. Winning by a landslide margin of 76 percent, or 221 to 69, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers successfully concluded a three-year struggle at the factory.

Swedwood, the Ikea subsidiary that runs the Virginia plant, forced its workers to endure low pay, cuts to starting pay, firings, unsafe conditions and long hours. African-American workers also faced discrimination, constantly being assigned to the lowest-paying departments and least-desirable shifts. Management also hired the union-busting firm of Jackson Lewis to intimidate workers.

It was through solidarity, one of the most powerful weapons in the working-class arsenal, that this election was won.

“This struggle was global, with support and assistance from every continent by more than 120,000 workers, various social partners, and many other global union federations,” said Bill Street, union organizer and director of the Wood Works Department of IAMAW. (BWI, July 27)

Once certified as the representative of the employees at the Danville factory, the union hopes to resolve these pressing issues. People have already begun expressing their support and gratitude.

“So we can have a voice. So we can all be heard and have another leg we can stand on when we need to,” said worker Coretta Giles, explaining why she supports the union. (Danville Register & Bee, July 27)

It was working-class unity and courageous struggle that secured this first step in the fight for justice at the Swedwood/Ikea factory. The struggle in Danville shows that no matter how bad a situation seems, workers can defend their rights by standing up and fighting back!

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Filed under class struggle, labor movement, labor unions, Leftists in the U.S. South, Southern Strategy, Southern United States, Virginia

Workers at Virginia Ikea factory wage union struggle

An article in the May issue of the Monthly Review claimed that the South is “now the center of U.S. political economy.”  The following article serves as an excellent example of how this claim is accurate by highlighting the struggles of union representation and racism that continue in places like Virginia.

-KurtFF8

[This article originally appeared on the Liberation News website]

June 30, 2011

Workers such as these at Ikea’s factory in Danville, Virginia have filed for a union election.

Ikea may be known in Sweden for giving decent pay and benefits to its employees, but workers at the company’s first factory in the United States are feeling left out. Employees at an Ikea subsidiary in Danville, Va., are facing low pay, long hours and even discrimination. Deciding to fight back, the workers have filed for an election with the National Labor Relations Board and have chosen the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers as their union.

Taxpayers sacrificed $12 million to lure the giant furniture maker to Danville, but the main attraction seems to be Virginia’s low minimum wage and “right-to-work” laws that make unionization difficult. Starting pay has been cut, and scheduled pay raises have been stopped. African-American employees have faced racial discrimination, leading six to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. These workers were assigned to the lowest-paying departments in the plant and forced to work the hated 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. shift.

“If we put in for a better job, we wouldn’t get it—it would always go to a white person,” said former employee Jackie Maubin. (LA Times, April 10)

Swedwood, the Ikea subsidiary that runs the Danville plant, has fired many of its employees and replaced them with lower-paid temporary workers who receive no benefits.

In May, under pressure from labor activists, Swedwood cut down on its use of temp workers and Ikea hired an auditing firm to speak to its workers about their conditions. But many were afraid to tell the auditors how they really felt because they were worried about being fired.

The auditors discovered that the company was forcing its employees to work overtime, a policy which stopped after the audit but has recently been restarted. Many workers have said that it is common for management to inform workers on Friday evening that they will have to pull a weekend shift or face punishment.

“It’s the most strict place I have ever worked,” said former plant employee Janis Wilborne. (LA Times, April 10)

The exploitation at the Danville factory has gotten so bad that the International Trade Union Confederation has released a statement saying it would use its resources to ensure the company treats its American workers respectfully.

The IAMAW and the company were originally holding discussions and working towards a cooperative election, but in the past month talks between the two sides fell apart. Swedwood has stated that it would accept the results of a secret ballot election, which is hard to believe given that they hired the union-busting firm of Jackson Lewis to intimidate the workers.

Despite all of the tireless work a company may do to give itself a progressive image, its main goal is to make profits. Profits are made by paying workers less than the full value their labor contributes to the goods or services they produce, which is exactly what Ikea/Swedwood is doing in Virginia.

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Filed under African Americans, class struggle, labor movement, labor unions, Race, racism, Southern United States, State's rights, Virginia, workers

The Florida Legislative Session

by KurtFF8

The following video was produced by the Florida AFL-CIO about the actions that workers took to fight back against the reactionary legislature in Florida.

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Filed under class struggle, Corporations, Florida, Gulf States, labor movement, labor unions, Leftists in the U.S. South, Southern United States, Students, Tallahassee

Florida Workers and Students Fight Back!

by KurtFF8

All around Florida on Friday, students and workers help rallies and marches to voice their opposition to the anti-union attacks, attacks on women’s rights, students and education, and the environment.

Here is a list of videos and media coverage

News coverage:

Tallahassee Television coverage

Tallahassee FAMU newspaper coverage

Tallahassee FSU newspaper coverage

Pensacola coverage

Gainesville student paper coverage (also there is video coverage from the Alligator)

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Filed under austerity measures, budget cuts, class struggle, Environment, Florida, labor movement, labor unions, Leftists in the U.S. South, Southern United States, Students, Uncategorized

Fight Back Florida, March 25th

On March 25th, cities across Florida will be holding rallies and marches to demonstrate that Florida workers are going to fight back against the recent anti-worker measures introduced by the state legislature.

Rallies will be held in various cities around the state.  Check the website for more details http://www.fightbackflorida.com

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Filed under austerity measures, budget cuts, class struggle, Demonstration Announcements, Florida, labor movement, labor unions, Leftists in the U.S. South, Students, Upcoming Events

Labor struggle heats up in Florida

[Originally posted on the PSL website]

 

March 11, 2011

Workers stand with taped mouths symbolizing the silencing of workers’ voices, Tallahassee, March 7.
Photo: Mike Chrisemer

As the state legislative session in Florida begins, the working class is increasingly becoming a target by lawmakers. The anti-worker state session began quickly, starting on March 7 when a senate committee held a hearing on SB830, a bill that would prohibit unions from automatically collecting dues from paychecks (a voluntary deduction that workers decide to have) and would prohibit dues money from being used in political activity.

Workers, students, and activists stood outside the meeting with tape over their mouths to represent the silencing of workers’ voices that this bill represents. The following day saw statewide rallies called “Awake the State,” which took place in 32 cities to oppose the attacks on workers by the state’s Republican Party. The event drew out over 10 thousand people statewide, dwarfing the Tea Party rallies in Tallahassee and elsewhere in the state.

These rallies were also held in opposition to the renewed attack on teachers and public education in Florida. Last year, SB6 would have pegged teachers pay to student test scores, ignoring the various factors that go into test results. However, due to intensive grassroots activism, then governor Charlie Crist vetoed the bill. However, a version of the union-busting bill has been revived in the new legislative session and is likely to pass.

Attacks on unemployed workers

In addition to the legislative attacks on collective bargaining and on teachers, hundreds of unemployed workers and their supporters protested in Tallahassee to oppose House Bill 7005, which cuts unemployment benefits. HB 7005 reduces the number of weeks of unemployment compensation from 26 weeks to 20 weeks, and also cuts the taxes imposed on business which are used to pay for unemployment. The bill passed the full house March 10.

It is estimated that 400,000 Floridians currently receive unemployment benefits: the state’s unemployment rate is about 12 percent. About 1 million people in Florida are without jobs.

The South is home to nine of the 10 states in the United States that have no collective bargaining rights for public workers, and Rick Scott recently made it known that he would like to see Florida become the 11th state (after having previously said that he did not want to go after those rights).

This shows the importance of organizing in the South, where workers are disproportionately denied a voice. Southern workers are now organizing in spite of these unfavorable conditions. While public sector workers in Wisconsin and Ohio fight to keep their collective bargaining rights, public workers in the South should begin fighting for those rights in the first place!

These anti-worker attacks follow attacks by governors across the country, as does the effort to fight back by workers. Only a fight back movement that advocates worker power can stop these attacks and move the workers movement forward. In Florida, workers are beginning to build a movement that will fight back!

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Filed under austerity measures, budget cuts, class struggle, Florida, labor movement, labor unions, Leftists in the U.S. South, Southern Strategy, Southern United States, State's rights, Tallahassee

A silent protest in Tallahassee

By KurtFF8

On Monday afternoon, a Florida Senate hearing was being held to discuss SB830, a bill which disallows unions from taking dues automatically through pay checks for public employees.  This bill also prohibits union dues from being used in political activity (source).  The AFL-CIO organized a silent protest outside of the committee room, with activists, labor members, and students taping their mouths shut to demonstrate the silencing they feel the bill would do to them.  Discussion of bill was later postponed due to “time constraints.”

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Filed under austerity measures, budget cuts, Censorship, class struggle, Education, Florida, labor movement, labor unions, Southern United States, Tallahassee, Uncategorized