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Ikea not alone in its labor troubles in the U.S.

April 11, 2011 |  1:53 pm

60787103 A recent Los Angeles Times story looked at Ikea's first and only factory in the United States.

Workers at the Danville, Va., plant say the Swedish furniture maker is not living up to the progressive European image the company uses to market itself (pointing to things such as its IWAY code of conduct). 

Employees complain of mandatory overtime, racial discrimination and wages and benefits that pale next to those of their colleagues in Ikea's Swedish factories.

It turns out that Ikea is not the only European company to be criticized for using its commitment to European social responsibility as a marketing tool but then dropping those higher standards when they move to the U.S., where labor protections are weaker.

Human Rights Watch released an 128-page report last fall spotlighting a number of European companies that trumpet their good corporate citizenship in Europe but then set up shop in America and “seem to forget their sensitivity to social responsibility concerns and much-touted commitments to workers’ rights,” according to the report.

Lance Compa, one of the authors of the report, told The Times that he only started to monitor the situation in Danville after writing the report but that it appeared to be another example of the phenomena he had discussed.

"Unfortunately, our labor law allows employers a lot of leeway.  It looks like Ikea is taking advantage of that," Compa said. "If they can have a successful enterprise in Sweden operating under Swedish labor law, there’s no reason on the face of it why they shouldn’t be able to do it in the U.S."

-- Nathaniel Popper

Photo: Workers prepare pieces of Ikea furniture for packing at the then-new factory in Danville, Va., in 2008. Credit: Steve Sheppard / Associated Press

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