Ikea gets cheap U.S. labor

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A Los Angeles Times article from last week complained that Ikea, the Swedish home furniture manufacturer, is mistreating workers in its factory in Danville, Va. The LA Times noted that Ikea pays its workers in Sweden $15 an hour, allows them to unionize, and gives them five weeks of paid vacation days.

But here in the U.S., Ikea pays its workers minimum wage, abhors unions, demands workers stay overtime, and gives them as few holidays as possible. This comes as a surprise to the general public because Ikea is seen as a company with a great reputation. It makes great products, pays workers well, meets environmental standards, and is generally a leader in corporate social responsibility. So why is the company they treating workers so poorly?

The answer is simple: Ikea is trying to maximize profit. Like any company, Ikea goes to almost any means to achieve this goal. This time, corporate cost-cutting is happening at the expense of American workers and suddenly American newspapers are “shocked” at how a company can treat workers so badly.

People seem to forget how badly American companies treat their own workers in Nicaragua and other third-world countries, but when a foreign company does the same to the United States, the knives come out. The fact of the matter is that Americans are not used to being treated like Mexicans, and it hurts American pride when a company is able to do so blatantly and we can do nothing to stop it.
In a world where America is losing its grasp as the sole superpower, the stark reality is that the country will have to deal with scenarios in which it gets treated like a poor country.

This may not happen all the time, but when it does, we need to be mature about it. Instead of displaying anger or disappointment, we need to realize that this is a simple side-effect of living in a world where corporations thrive on profit, not social responsibility.
So, as long as Ikea stays within the law, there is no point in crying about low wages and forced overtime. As the article itself mentions, Ikea brought much-needed jobs at a time when there were none. Let us take that as a positive and stop worrying about this non-issue.