Posts Tagged ‘workplace safety’

Ask IKEA: What’s Swedish for unionbusting?

IKEA logoI’m a big fan of IKEA. They sell cool, affordable furniture and teach me a few Swedish words whenever I go to their stores. They’ve also made it their mission to be a responsible, innovative company that takes care of its workers. In Sweden, where almost all of IKEA’s workers are in unions, we’ve seen that mission fulfilled. The workers there earn about $19 an hour minimum and get five weeks of paid vacation.

So it’s incredibly disappointing to find out that those high standards aren’t true for their U.S. employees too.

At an IKEA subsidiary factory in Danville, Virginia, workers report they are facing pay cuts, mandatory overtime, racial discrimination, and dangerous conditions on the job.
The workers want to organize as a union in order to gain a voice on the job and stop the mistreatment. But instead of respecting its workers’ right to form a union like IKEA does in Sweden, IKEA’s subsidiary in Virginia hired unionbusting consultants and discouraged union membership in mandatory employee meetings. And, worst of all, workers who support forming a union have now been fired!

It’s completely outrageous — and it needs to stop. Fortunately there is something you can do today. Write a letter to IKEA’s CEO and tell him to stop the intimidation and to let the U.S. workers have a fair shot to join a union! While we appreciate Ikea’s mission of corporate social responsibility, IKEA’s actions in its U.S. factory speak louder than words.

 

Workers Memorial Day is a call for better workplace safety

Hard Hats at MemorialToday workers and their families gather across the country to remember and honor colleagues who were injured or killed on the job site last year. While we have made many improvements since workplace tragedies like the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, research tells us more still needs to be done in order to protect the health and safety of America’s workers.

In 2009 alone, 4,340 workers were killed on the job – an average of 12 workers every day– and an estimated 50,000 died from occupational diseases. Read more »

 

One hundred years after the Triangle Shirtwaist fire, worker safety still paramount

This week marks the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist fire. Workers and communities across the country honor the memory of the 146 women and children who perished as a result of locked doors and employer negligence. In 1911 outrage toward such callous disregard for workers galvanized Americans to press for better working conditions, and today, the 100th anniversary gives us an opportunity to reflect on the evolution of workplace safety. Read more »

 

Working conditions for DC restaurant employees not what they ordered

On Monday, the Restaurant Opportunity Council of DC (ROC) held an event to discuss their most recent report, Behind the Kitchen Door: Inequality and Opportunity in Washington, DC’s Thriving Restaurant Industry. And the findings were less than appetizing for the area’s food service workers.

The report took a detailed look at a wide range of topics, including racial discrimination, workplace safety, low wages, and public health. Restaurant employees reported facing tip theft by managers and owners, as well as wage theft—owners requiring workers to clock out before finishing work in order to avoid earning overtime. Similarly, the report found that many wait staff, busboys, and dishwashers are not given paid sick leave from work, exposing their coworkers and customers to illness.
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Green jobs must be good jobs

There’s a lot of hype about “going green.” But we must ensure that as we pursue alternative energy and sustainability we are protecting our greatest resource: America’s workers.

This year’s Good Jobs Green Jobs National Conference explored ways to incorporate workers’ rights into green initiatives. At the conference, American Rights at Work hosted two panels, highlighting employee protection within the agriculture and construction industries.

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It all started with clean socks and jocks

Yesterday, American Rights at Work Executive Director Kimberly Freeman Brown and George Atallah, the NFL Players Association’ Assistant Executive Director for External Affairs, held a briefing call to discuss the implications of a lockout for all workers. Kim and George were joined on the call by a diverse group of non-labor organizations, coalitions, and think tanks, including: Center for American Progress , National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, Drum Major Institute for Public Policy, Jobs with Justice, Military Saves, National Consumers League, Center for Economic and Policy Research, and The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.

George began the call by reminding the participants that while labeled an “association,” the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) is in fact a union. It was formed in 1956 with the rallying cry “clean socks and jocks,” in response to team owners refusing to provide clean uniforms. Ever since, the NFLPA has been fighting for many of the same workplace protections as workers in other industries—including health care, pensions, and safety on the job. And with the threat of a lockout looming, the NFLPA is standing with the hundreds of thousands of everyday workers – from the grounds crew in the stadium to the bell hops in the hotels – who would lose their jobs without a football season. Read more »

 

#LetUsPlay also means #LetUsWork

Today the NFL Players Association is taking to Twitter and Facebook to raise awareness about the owners’ threat to lockout the players and cancel the next season of football. Billed as #LetUsPlay Day, the event’s signature phrase reflects the players’ bargaining position – they’re just asking to continue under the terms of the previous contract, nothing more. It’s the owners who, despite major profits, want the players to take an 18 percent pay cut while playing more games each season.

Despite efforts by some to paint these negotiations as a dispute between millionaires and billionaires, the reality is that an NFL lockout will affect over 100 thousand everyday workers in cities across the country. Read more »

 

Workplace or prison camp?

His name is Dick Bengen, and at Ruby Ridge Dairy in Washington State, workers say he imposes some of the most unspeakable working conditions we’ve ever encountered. He carries a rifle in his truck and threatens pro-union employees with it. He shouts abusive language and racial slurs at his workers. He refuses to grant lunch breaks. And his employees have to drink from the same water barrels as his cows.

We’ve seen plenty of companies that treat their workers poorly—Ruby Ridge takes it to a whole new level. Read more »

 

Tell IKEA CEO Mikael Ohlsson: Let Swedwood employees build a better future

If you’re trying to outfit your home on a budget, IKEA is pretty much the holy grail of interior decorating. The cafeteria food isn’t half bad either. But at Swedwood, an IKEA furniture subsidiary in Danville, VA, employees say they’re subjected to a whole slew of unsafe, unfair, and generally unpleasant working conditions—including unlawful intimidation and firing of union supporters during their ongoing attempt to join the Machinists (IAM).

That’s way too high a price to pay for any product, no matter how trendy. Read more »

 

Forget the “what ifs”

I vividly recall my third grade teacher telling the class, “There are no ‘what if’ questions.” We shouldn’t ask, for instance, “What if school closes for a month-long snow delay?” when fretting about an upcoming math test. (You can tell I didn’t grow up in Washington, DC, where we now know school can close for a month-long snow delay.) My teacher, Ms. Muldown, was simply instilling in students the discipline to be realistic when assessing any given situation.

Math tests may be a thing of the past, but one situation most of us face on a daily basis is work. For Wichita bus drivers, the circumstances of their lives at work weren’t good. Despite carrying the incredible responsibility of safely transporting their community’s children to and from school each day, the bus drivers earned little beyond what First Student, their employer, paid them—and only two paid holidays a year. That meant no vacation time, no sick leave, no retirement options, and no health insurance. Read more »