Weekly Workers’ Round-Up: IKEA Workers Unionize, and NH Becomes New Front in Public-Sector Fight

Patrick Glennon

Video of Tuesday in Madison, when activists staged a number of rallies and delivered more than 1 million signatures to initiate proceedings for a recall of Gov. Scott Walker.

Gov. Walker Beware

Organized labor in Wisconsin gave the state’s unpopular governor an enormous slap in the face this week. On Tuesday, activists dropped off more than 1 million signatures collected from across the state — nearly double the number needed in order to secure a recall election of Gov. Scott Walker. Large trucks transported the boxes of signatures (which weighed an astonishing 3,000 pounds) to the foot of the state capital in Madison, where they were delivered to state officials.

Labor activists, mobilized by popular anger at Gov. Walker’s union-busting agenda, greatly exceeded initial projections of signatures. There’s little to no chance of legal action challenging the petition’s legitimacy, and a recall election will likely happen in late spring or early summer. Find out more about the recall effort at the website for Wisconsin United.

Maryland IKEA Workers Vote to Join the International Association of Machinists

Workers at an IKEA distribution plant in Perryville, Md., voted to join the International Association of Machinists (IAM) this week. Following the example of their peers at IKEA’s Danville, Virginia plant — who unionized last July350 workers at the Perryville plant voted overwhelmingly to join the IAM.

According to the IAM, IKEA management stepped up its intimidation game in the closing days of the campaign to unionize. Employees were purportedly threatened with job loss, underwent heightened surveillance and were forced to endure union-avoidance campaigns.”

IAM District 4 representative Joe Flanders commented on how the organizers responded to management’s hostile behavior: The new IAM members were able to see through the scare tactics. Inspired by the recent organizing success of their co-workers in Danville, VA, these workers were determined to be successful in their own efforts to organize.”

Ed Morris, head of the plant, stated that “[w]e accept the co-workers’ decision and look forward to working with their representatives in a mutually cooperative and respectful manner.”

New Hampshire State House Chamber Swarmed by Organized Labor

More than 600 protesters — including firemen, state workers, teachers and truck drivers—occupied the hearing rooms at New Hampshire’s State House this week, calling attention to proposed legislation that would target unions’ collective bargaining rights and dues collection.

The turnout of protesters was so overwhelming, the hearings had to be relocated to another chamber.

Just one month after a right-to-work bill was defeated, State Rep. Andrew Manuse brought HB 1645 to the floor. The bill would strip public employees of collective bargaining rights. 

Another bill, HB 1570, is even more controversial. According to the AFL-CIO:

HB 1570 would allow public-sector workers to opt out of a union in their workplace by surrendering any wages or benefits negotiated by the union. HB 1570 effectively creates two classes of employees in a workplace, opening employers to discrimination lawsuits.

New Hampshire AFL-CIO President Mark MacKenzie summed up the legislators’ motives:

The real purpose of these hearings today is dismantling the collective bargaining law at the state level and at the local level. This law has been effective. We have negotiated thousands of collective bargaining agreements and attracted terrific employees to the public sector — this is not a broken system. Our legislators need to take their eyes off of this and focus on what really matters. They need to focus on creating jobs.

Norwegian Workers Strike in Opposition to EU Mandate

On January 18, over 150,000 workers participated in a general strike in Norway.

Participating unions included the Norwegian Transport Workers’ Union, the Norwegian Union of Municipal and General Employees and the Norwegian United Federation of Trade Unions

Strikers took to the streets in order to express opposition to an EU mandate, known as the European Union Temporary and Agency Workers Directive. Union members fear that the directive would promote the use of contract workers, taking away permanent jobs and diminishing the leverage of unions to collectively bargain.

Rallies took place across the country, including sizable demonstrations in Oslo, Kristiansand and Bergen.

Roger Hansen, from the Norwegian Transport Workers’ Union, spoke to a crowd of 3,000. He argued that the promotion of contract labor and temp workers undermined a stable workforce.

He declared that the directive is against the fundamental values of the trade union movement.”

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Patrick Glennon is a writer and musician living in Chicago. He received his B.A. in History from Skidmore College and currently works as Communications Manager for the Michael Forti for Cook County Court campaign and as the web intern at In These Times.
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