The benefits of unionization: a case study – National Consumers League

By Benjamin Judge, NCL Public Policy Intern

Let’s pretend that there are two factories that make the same products for the same company. In one factory the workers are paid $19 dollars per hour and get five weeks of paid vacation. In the other factory the workers are paid $8 dollars an hour with zero paid vacation. Now, what if I were to tell you that the only difference between the factories is the countries in which each factory is located?  That doesn’t seem fair, does it? Well this is a very real example between an IKEA factory in Sweden, which offers good pay and vacation, and an IKEA factory in Danville, Virginia, which does not.

The workers stronghold
IKEA pays its Swedish workers a much higher wage because its workers are unionized and are able to collectively bargain with the executives of the company. Although some in the media considers Sweden a “socialist” state, it should be acknowledged that Sweden is one of the most capitalist nations in the world. The reason it’s now being considered “socialist” is because of its huge social welfare programs and its dedication to worker protections. As stated on the Swedish government’s website, “Employment security and stability are highly valued in Sweden.” It is because of this dedication to labor that Swedish workers are paid well, have safe working condition, and good job benefits.

 The struggle for equal rights
Compared to the Swedish workforce, the average US worker has a harder time unionizing and collectively bargaining, making it much more difficult for employees to improve working conditions. To use the Danville factory as an example, poor working conditions have lead to 1,536 days of work being lost over a 30-month period because of workplace injuries. To combat this, workers in the Danville factory are starting to support the idea of unionizing and have filed for union elections. This is an important step towards getting the wages, benefits, and work conditions that the Virginia workers deserve and would bring American workers more in line with their Swedish counterparts. However, IKEA has employed some dirty tactics in order to stop the workers from unionizing. IKEA recently hired the firm Jackson Lewis, who specialize in employment law, to hold meetings to sway workers against unionizing.

What needs to be done
As supporters of fair labor, we cannot allow IKEA to keep underpaying and undervaluing its employees. Let IKEA know where you stand by signing the petition urging IKEA to allow their workers to unionize. The petition can be found here.