Here’s the announcement from the union’s website:
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.
“Despite the ‘persuasive’ tactics and intervention strategies that the Swedwood management installed throughout the entire union election process, and to be frank, prior to that, the workers at Swedwood. They have emphatically said, yes to the union,” stated Ambet Yuson, General Secretary of the BWI.
Since 2008, the BWI and the IAMAW had been engaged in dialogue with IKEA and Swedwood for trade union recognition for the more than 300 workers at the Danville plant. After two years in failed talks, when it was clear that nothing positive would result out of additional negotiations, the IAMAW filed for trade union representation elections on June 20, 2011.
Rather than remaining neutral and supporting a “Fair and Friendly” election as IKEA management had discussed with BWI and the IAMAW, the United States-based Swedwood management continued to follow the advise of its union avoidance law firm and conducted several activities designed to alter the outcome of the election. Regardless of these intrusive tactics that ranged from “voluntary” meetings with Swedwood management; rumours of plant closure; and promises of bonuses should the union be defeated, the workers decided to join the union. 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.
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Now, here’s the really interesting part. Seems that IKEA set up their plant in Danville to take advantage of cheap American labor.
Laborers in Swedwood plants in Sweden produce bookcases and tables similar to those manufactured in Danville. The big difference is that the Europeans enjoy a minimum wage of about $19 an hour and a government-mandated five weeks of paid vacation. Full-time employees in Danville start at $8 an hour with 12 vacation days – eight of them on dates determined by the company.
What’s more, as many as one-third of the workers at the Danville plant have been drawn from local temporary-staffing agencies. These workers receive even lower wages and no benefits, employees said.
In the Giant Scheme of Things, this may not seem like much, but, it’s a welcome reversal of declining union membership.
Congratulations to 221 very brave people in Danville.