Monday, July 25, 2011

Solidarity with Swedwood IKEA workers

The USA is reputed to be the “home of the brave and the land of the free”.

However, there is one brave group of 300 workers who are certainly not free to join their union.

They are employees of the wholly-owned IKEA subsidiary Swedwood in Danville, Virginia.

They have been subjected to harassment and intimidation as they try to organize into a union.

According to the latest reports, with the US in the grip of a heatwave, conditions in the plant have soared to 115° F (46° C) and in some sections of the plant, to 125° F (51.6°C), yet Swedwood management refused to open the doors of the non air conditioned building in order to keep down the humidity which is draw into the building by the massive saw dust exhaust blowers.

Workers have fainted and passed out from the heat. At least one worker received medical treat off site for heat related issues. Electronic equipment has begun to fail from the combination heat and humidity.

This is why workers need to have basic organizations of defence in the workplace.

The Building Workers International Union last week issued a call to make the week of July 19-25 “I Vote for Swedwood/IKEA Union” week, calling on activists around the world to take photos of solidarity actions outside their local IKEA plant.

In Adelaide we did just that.

Hope it helps!

Post Script
July 27, 2011

Victory news from Swedwood

In a secret ballot election conducted by the National Labor Relations Board, an agency of the United States Federal Government, workers at Swedwood’s operation in Danville Virginia voted to be represented by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW), and affiliate of the Building and Wood Workers International (BWI). The final vote was 221 workers (76%) who voted for the union and 69 against. The election victory marks completion of the first phase in the struggle for workers rights and social justice for these Swedwood workers.

Issues of safety and health, racial discrimination, dignity and basic human respect were the main grievances that the workers had expressed as reasons for voting to join the Machinists Union.

The workers have voted for a union but clearly the struggle is not over as the next major hurdle for the workers is to negotiate a successful collective bargaining agreement that improves worker safety, promotes respectful treatment, and puts an end to favoritism and discrimination.

“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,Director of the Wood Works Department of the IAMAW. “There are not the words in the English language to express our gratitude and thanks to everyone who participated and made this first victory possible.”

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