Ikea’s first American Factory is a Sweatshop

By  | 1 May 2011

For most Americans, sweatshops were slave galleys that American companies pretended they didn't have in Asia. Till some Swedish furniture factory set up shop in recession-beggared Swedwood in the state of Virginia and hired 335 workers for $8 an hour, with 12 days off a year. Meanwhile, they learnt that the company—the legendary flat-packed furniture-maker IKEA—gave its European workers a minimum of $19 an hour, with five weeks' paid vacation a year. Today, three years after IKEA landed, Swedwood's workers are trying to form a union—and IKEA has responded with mandatory re-education meetings, a scorching indignity among others that include alleged racist behaviour, forced overtime and weekend work. Registered as a charitable nonprofit, IKEA paid 3.5 percent as taxes on a profit of €2.7 billion last year; its 2010 charitable outgo was less than a quarter of a percent of its wealth. Moreover, the foundation that runs IKEA is richer, at $36 billion, than the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. This must hurt like hell.

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