Union Perspective on Global Framework Agreements And Corporate by jolinmilioncherie

VIEWS: 4 PAGES: 12

									A Union Perspective on Global Framework Agreements
     And Corporate Social Responsibility Codes




                                                        Norm Gleichman
                                                 Deputy General Counsel
                                    Service Employees International Union
                                                         Washington, DC

                                   Prepared for the Midyear Meeting of the
                    Committee on International Labor and Employment Law
                              ABA Section of Labor and Employment Law
                                           May 13-17, 2012 - Paris, France




                           1
    I.       Background

SEIU is the largest private sector union in the nation, representing more than 2.1 million workers
in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico, primarily in healthcare, cleaning, food services, security
and the public sector.

A significant number of our members work in low-wage industries where working conditions
and standards are increasingly set by multinational employers (MNEs). Many of our members
work directly for large MNEs, such as global security contractors or companies that outsource
cleaning, food and maintenance services. Other members’ standards are indirectly set by global
employers. Although they work for domestic contractors, their destiny is ultimately determined
by the global companies that hire the contractors. For example, many of our cleaning employers
contract with real estate owners with holdings throughout the world.

Many of our members are people of color and immigrants. In fact, SEIU represents more
immigrant workers than any other union in the United States. Our members, as well as other
unions and millions of unorganized workers, are up against a framework of U.S. labor law for
the private sector whose promise and protections have been eaten away by court decisions and
amendments since the NLRA was enacted in 1935.

A 2007 report of the House Congressional Committee on Education and Labor labeled this
situation as “a human rights crisis” that was a leading cause of the disappearing middle class and
growing income inequality. The report pointed out: “The freedom to form or join a labor union
and engage in collective bargaining is an internationally-recognized human right. In the United
States, the freedom of association is enshrined in the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights.”1
The report went on to warn: “Today the NLRA is ineffective and American workers’ freedom to
organize and collectively bargain is in peril everyday as a result.”

As the effectiveness of U.S. labor law has eroded, the economy has also undergone dramatic
changes. The U.S. and other governments have opened their economies to foreign capital and
products, increasing the size and influence of MNEs. Given the challenges of this brave new
world, unions are exploring innovative ways to reinvigorate the fundamental rights to form and
join unions and bargain collectively.

Over the last decade SEIU has joined the ranks of a growing number of unions in the service and
industrial sectors that recognize the vital need to integrate global union alliances, global
campaigns and international labor standards into the way we go about our mission of building a
social and economic justice movement that wins for working families and the poor.


1
 H.R. Rep. No. 110-23, at 7 (2007). The Report also states: “…[i]t is a long standing American principle and
tradition that working people may join together to improve their economic circumstances. The most explicit
recognition of this principle for private sector workers in federal law is the [National Labor Relations Act].”

                                                          2
For SEIU and our partner unions globally, we seek opportunities to import international labor
standards and norms into our relationships with global employers in order to improve conditions
for workers, foster consistency in labor relations, and ensure that workers have the freedom to
join and form unions free of intimidation and coercion.

Activists and scholars alike have noted that there is a significant and growing gap between the
transnational scope of many MNEs’ operations and the “nationally bounded nature of labor
relations.”2 Absent consistent standards, our experience is that MNEs behave much differently
toward workers and unions in countries with relatively weak labor law regimes (such as the
United States) than they do in countries with stronger labor protections (most European
countries).

As Lance Compa documented in his Human Rights Watch report A Strange Case, some of the
largest, best-known European employers “break with home-based policies that are relatively
respectful of workers’ organizing efforts and collective bargaining” and instead “exploit
loopholes and shortcomings in U.S. labor law that violate international human rights standards.”3
Or they take advantage of the NLRA’s weak remedial scheme and actually violate U.S. law “to
frustrate workers’ exercise of their freedom of association.” As Compa puts it, “the European
Dr. Jeckyll becomes an American Mr. Hyde.”

In the face of the lack of a binding and comprehensive legal/regulatory regime that can cross
national borders, two alternative, non-governmental paths have been identified as possible
vehicles for bringing international labor standards into the business and labor relations practices
of MNEs. The first approach takes the form of voluntary corporate codes of conduct, which are
sometimes known as Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) policies. The second approach
involves negotiated agreements reached between global union federations and MNEs.

       II.       Corporate Social Responsibility Codes

CSR codes have been unilaterally issued by some MNEs and may include language
incorporating international human rights agreements and guidelines, including the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the conventions of the International Labor Organization
(ILO) and the Global Compact of the United Nations.4 Many of these codes include language
that aims to apply these standards to subcontractors along the supply chain.


2
  M. Fichter and M. Helfen, Going Local with Global Policies: Implementing International Framework Agreements
in Brazil and the United States, in PRACTICES AND OUTCOMES OF AN EMERGING GLOBAL INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS
FRAMEWORK 73, 86 (Papadakis, Konstantinos, ed. 2011).
3
 Lance Compa, A Strange Case: Violations of Workers’ Freedom of Association in the United States by European
Multinational Corporations, 17 International Union Rights 5 (2008), available at
http://digitalcommons.ilr.cornell.edu/articles/336/ p. 3.
4
    Id. at 3, 36, 59, 88.

                                                      3
Some have critiqued these codes for suffering from a “fox guarding the henhouse” problem.
Companies monitor and enforce their own codes of conduct, leading to possible conflicts
between business interests, supplier relationships, and robust enforcement. In response to this
critique, some companies have voluntarily engaged independent monitors, with mixed results.5

Attempts at judicial enforcement of this type of code have been pursued in U.S. courts, but
without much success. The most prominent case is Doe v. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. In 1992, NBC's
"Dateline" reported that some of Wal-Mart's clothing had been made by children in Bangladesh,
despite being advertised as being "Made in the U.S.A."6 In the midst of this bad publicity, Wal-
Mart developed its “Standards for Suppliers.”7 This CSR code of conduct, incorporated into its
contract with foreign suppliers, purported to require all suppliers to adhere to applicable laws
regarding basic international labor standards. However, Wal-Mart’s asserted failure to enforce
its code of conduct generated litigation by affected workers. Doe was filed in federal court in
California on behalf of workers in China, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Swaziland, and Nicaragua,
who alleged that they were working under sweatshop conditions in Wal-Mart’s supplier
factories.8

Among other claims, the workers sued for breach of contract as third-party beneficiaries of Wal-
Mart’s code applicable to its global supplier chain. The worker plaintiffs maintained that Wal-
Mart breached its obligation under its supply contract to the direct detriment of plaintiffs in
failing to leverage its economic control over supplier factories to undertake adequate monitoring,
insure supplier compliance, and/or otherwise terminate its business relationship with non-
complying supplier factories.

In its successful motion to dismiss the case in district court, Wal-Mart denied any legal basis for
treating these workers as third-party beneficiaries under its supplier contracts and CSR code, or
for recognizing any other legal duty making Wal-Mart responsible for the poor working
conditions found in its supplier factories. Wal-Mart’s brief offered striking evidence for those
who believe that CSR codes have come to play a merely ornamental role in the international
debate over corporate social responsibility:




5
 Lance Compa, Corporate Social Responsibility and Workers’ Rights, 30 Comp. Lab. L. & Pol’y J. 1 (2008),
available at http://digitalcommons.ilr.cornell.edu/articles/183/ at http://digitalcommons.ilr.cornell.edu/articles/183.
6
    R. Gladstone, No. 1 Retailer Slammed in ‘Dateline NBC’ Show, Stock Falls, Associated Press, December 21, 1992.
7
    See: www.walmartstores.com for its Ethical Standards program.
8
 The plaintiffs used pseudonyms in lieu of their true identities, to protect themselves and their families from harm
and retaliation by the supplier companies and/or their home country governments.


                                                           4
            Imposing on Wal-Mart, and other American retailers, the virtually unlimited
            liability sought by the foreign plaintiffs here cuts against U.S. foreign policy.
            Whatever ills may result from world globalization, the redress for those ills
            should not be the result of a court changing or vacating this country’s foreign
            policy – particularly when U.S. foreign policy clearly favors globalization. Wal-
            Mart and many other U.S. retailers encourage suppliers and suppliers’ factories to
            improve working conditions for the factories’ employees. But, however
            successful or unsuccessful those efforts might be, imposing massive liability on
            entities such as Wal-Mart would defeat, or discourage, their affirmative efforts – a
            counterproductive result. 9

Wal-Mart also argued that

            [c]ompelling fundamental principles weigh heavily against creating law to make
            American companies become the guarantors of minimum wages, overtime, and
            other labor and employment rights to foreign workers. The responsibility for
            labor and employment benefits and protections belongs with the foreign workers’
            employers. Moreover, judicial activism is not appropriate where our country’s
            trade policy objectives intentionally leave the enforcement of, and compliance
            with, foreign countries’ laws to each of the respective foreign countries
            involved.10

As characterized by the plaintiffs, Wal-Mart argued

            that it has no duty to any of the workers who make its merchandise, and that its
            code of conduct, which specifically lists a series of rights for those workers, is
            nothing more than a worthless document never intended to provide any benefits to
            the workers, Wal-Mart then shifts gears and argues that it can’t possibly be
            accountable for the fact that it represents to consumers, in California and
            elsewhere, that its code of conduct is binding on all its suppliers and is Wal-
            Mart’s guarantee that its workers around the world enjoy the rights enumerated in
            the code.11




9
 Defendant’s Notice and Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff’s First Amended Complaint at 5, Doe et al. v. Wal-Mart
Stores, Inc., 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 98102 (C.D. Cal. Mar. 30, 2007) (No. 05-7307).
10
     Id. at 1.
11
  Plaintiffs’ Opposition to Wal-Mart’s Motion to Dismiss First Amended Complaint at 2, Doe et al. v. Wal-Mart
Stores, Inc., 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 98102 (C.D. Cal. Mar. 30, 2007) (No. 05-7307).



                                                       5
Wal-Mart’s Motion to Dismiss was granted in 2007 and upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for
the Ninth Circuit in 2009.12 The Ninth Circuit rejected each of the plaintiffs’ legal theories,
concluding that Wal-Mart had no duty arising under the Code of Conduct or in common law
negligence to monitor or protect the workers from substandard working conditions. In the words
of the court, “as we view the supply contracts, Wal-Mart made no promise to monitor the
suppliers [and] no such promise flows to Plaintiffs as third-party beneficiaries.” The court also
held that Wal-Mart was not a joint employer and that the relationship between the parties was too
attenuated to support an unjust enrichment claim.

Notwithstanding the Ninth Circuit’s decision in Doe, Professor Jim Brudney of Fordham Law
School has identified several options for private enforcement of corporate CSR codes based on
his extensive research in this area. These will be described in his excellent forthcoming article
Envisioning Enforcement of Freedom of Association Standards in Corporate Codes: A Journey
for Sinbad or Sisyphus that is slated for publication in the Comparative Labor Law & Policy
Journal. Among possible causes of action, Professor Brudney discusses employee lawsuits based
on the employee handbook doctrine, enforceable as a unilateral contract (noting that lack of
reliance or broad aspirational wording may be fatal to a judicial claim); lawsuits in which
employees pursue rights as third-party beneficiaries of the code or the corporation’s supplier
code; and actions under the Alien Tort Statute.13



       III.     Global Framework Agreements


An alternative to self-imposed corporate social responsibility policies comes in the form of
global framework agreements – sometimes called GFAs or IFAs – as well as domestic
organizing agreements that grow out of global campaigns. These agreements are negotiated
between an MNE and a union or global union federation (GUF). They set the rules for employer
and union conduct during union organizing drives, and may also contain language on future
engagement, procedures for labor-management dialogue, and even on specific working
conditions. GFAs could also address practical questions such as how an MNE will work with




12
     Doe v Wal-Mart Stores Inc., 572 F.3d 677 (9th Cir. 2009).
13
   The status of claims under the Alien Tort Statute is now at risk in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Company,
No. 10-1491, now pending in the Supreme Court. In March, the Supreme Court asked the parties to submit a new
set of briefs on a very broad question: whether American courts might ever hear disputes under the Alien Tort
Statute for human rights abuses committed abroad, regardless of who is named as a defendant. The case will be re-
argued in the fall.


                                                           6
union partners to respond to industrial change or how to manage relationships across the global
supply chain.14

GFAs began to be negotiated as early as 1988, with an agreement between Groupe Danone (the
parent of the U.S. yogurt company Dannon) and the International Union of Food, Agricultural,
Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers' Association (IUF). Another early
agreement was negotiated in 1994 between the IUF and Accor, a French hotel corporation. Some
initial GFAs contained broad commitments, incorporating a pledge to abide by the ILO core
labor standards. There are now over 100 such agreements in numerous industry sectors.

To the extent that they are the outcome of voluntary negotiations between representative
organizations, GFAs are arguably the most legitimate form of voluntary corporate social
responsibility initiative.15 Unions and workers at the local level benefit from clear statements
from central management binding local managers not to interfere with the freedom to organize.
One obvious benefit to MNEs is the boost the GFA provides to their ethical reputation. But
some MNEs have also pointed out that GFAs are a helpful impetus to standardize global labor
practices. This could include “the introduction of operational efficiencies and new working
practices, or joint initiatives on training, communications and health & safety.”16

Although most unions believe that GFAs are preferable to self-imposed CSR codes, their
implementation still occasionally suffers from a “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” problem. Some
European companies make commitments in their GFAs that their subsidiaries or suppliers in the
U.S. or other countries are reluctant to live up to. One example is described in Michael Fichter
and Markus Helfen’s article Going local with Global Policies: Implementing International
Framework Agreements in Brazil and the United States, from which the following account is
taken.

The United Automobile Workers (UAW) participated in the negotiation of the GFA between
Daimler (at the time, in 2002, still DaimlerChrysler) and the GUF with which it is affiliated, the
International Metalworkers' Federation (IMF). When the UAW launched an organizing drive in
Vance, Alabama, at Ai3, a logistics and supply chain company contracting with Mercedes-Benz,
it assumed that management would remain neutral and refrain from any anti-union activities.

In reference to freedom of association, the GFA stated: “DaimlerChrysler acknowledges the
human right to form trade unions. During organization campaigns the company and the

14
  Konstantinos Papadakis, Introduction and Overview in SHAPING GLOBAL INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS THE IMPACT OF
INTERNATIONAL FRAMEWORK AGREEMENTS, supra note 2, at 13.
15
     Id.
16
  Jenni Myles, We’re Not in Kansas Anymore: The Challenge for Global Labour Relations in INTERNATIONAL
LABOR AND SOCIAL POLICY REVIEW 2009, International Organisation of Employers (2009), at 58, available at
http://www.cohep.com/pdf/Int_Social___Policy_Review_2009.pdf.


                                                      7
executives will remain neutral; the trade unions and the company will comply with basic
democratic principles, and thus, they will ensure the employees can make a free decision.” 17

Regarding the applicability of these provisions to suppliers, the agreement stated that Daimler-
Chrysler ‘supports and encourages its suppliers to introduce and implement equivalent principles
in their own companies. DaimlerChrysler expects its suppliers to incorporate these principles as a
basis for relations with DaimlerChrysler.”18

At Ai3, 65 per cent of employees had signed union authorization cards and the UAW filed for an
NLRB election. Because the UAW expected Ai3 management to remain neutral, it was caught
off guard when the company began to hold captive-audience and one-on-one meetings with
employees. Ai3’s conduct resulted in the issuance of a complaint by the Regional Director of the
NLRB alleging “an unlawful discharge of an employee because of his support for the UAW,
threats of plant closure, threats that the employers were withholding raises because of the union
campaign,” as well as other types of unlawful interference with union activity.

Then a letter on Mercedes-Benz stationery was circulated among the Ai3 employees praising the
good relations between the two companies and implying that the presence of a union could have
a detrimental effect on the continuation of the contract. Moreover, a former top manager of
Mercedes-Benz visited the shop floor at Ai3 and allegedly questioned the future of the
company’s contract with Mercedes-Benz if the employees voted in favor of union recognition.

The UAW immediately passed the incriminating letter on to the IMF and to the Daimler World
Employee Committee (WEC), asking for an explanation for the blatant violation of the GFA
provisions on neutrality extended to suppliers. The WEC turned the letter over to the responsible
management office for action. However, several weeks passed before management responded,
and when it did, Daimler headquarters labeled the letter a forgery and a misrepresentation of
official company policy, and it took no responsibility for either. According to Fichter and Helfen,
by the time the company responded, the momentum of the organizing campaign had lapsed and
many employees had withdrawn their signatures of support for a union recognition election. The
damage had been done and the UAW failed in its bid for recognition.

Over time, many unions learned through experience that the earlier versions of GFAs suffered
from a critical defect: they lacked specific constraints and mandates on employer conduct, and
had no enforcement mechanisms.

Today many unions pursue global organizing agreements that spell out the specific items that
reflect practical compliance with international labor standards, like union organizer access to the


17
   DaimlerChrysler and IMF Agreement 2002, available at
http://www.imfmetal.org/files/DC%20code%20in%20English.pdf
18
     Id.

                                                  8
worksite to talk with workers, and controls on employer tactics that have coercive effect on
workers’ freedom of association.19

Overall, GUFs have tried to move away from merely incorporating ILO core labor standards
because the CFA decisions are not necessarily adequate for protecting freedom of association,
particularly in the area of employer neutrality. For example, UNI Global Union’s agreements try
to specify "non-opposition" by employers to unionization. Unions are deeply frustrated by the
CFA’s weak intercession in Delta case No. 2683. In this case, Delta conducted an aggressive
anti-union campaign during employee work time, including putting up posters and banners and
passing out pins to workers telling them to “Shred It” (the union election ballot).20 The CFA said
it was “not in a position to assess the factual evidence in this specific case” and that it would “not
attempt to re-evaluate the assessments already undertaken” by US authorities. However, the
Delta decision should not rule out future expansion of the notion that an aggressive anti-union
campaign waged by an employer on paid time where workers are forced to listen to a barrage of
propaganda is inherently coercive and thus violates workers’ freedom of association under ILO
core labor conventions, and should not be tolerated as a form of employer “free speech.” 21

Most international framework agreements tend not to specify arbitration as an enforcement
mechanism. A few GFAs do provide stepped-up enforcement procedures. For example, the UNI
agreement with Securitas, a Swedish-based security company with operations in multiple
countries including the U.S., is enforceable in Swedish court.22



19
   See Building and Woodworkers' International (BWI) Model Framework Agreement, available at
http://www.bwint.org/default.asp?index=47; International Metalworkers’ Federation (IMF) Model Framework
Agreement, available at http://www.imfmetal.org/files/0505102301487/ifamodel_total_english.pdf. The BWI
Model Framework Agreement goes beyond neutrality and states that the company “shall take a positive attitude to
trade union activities, including union access to workers in the organizing process. The company will follow the
most efficient process in the event that BWI affiliate requests union recognition.” The IMF model addresses a
common employer tactic by stating that “During labour-management conflicts [company] will not hire new workers
to replace those involved in the dispute.”
20
  Prior to a 2011 rule change, elections under the Railway Labor Act (which governs union representation of most
workers in the airline industry) required a majority of the entire bargaining unit regardless of how many actually
vote. Under this system, employers often encouraged workers not to vote, because not voting is effectively a vote
against the union.
21
   Some of our domestic organizing agreements specifically bar supervisor one-on-one meetings with an employee
about unionization or limit captive audience meetings throughout the campaign. Some commit to employer
neutrality or limit the ways in which an employer may campaign against unionization during paid work time when
employees are forced to listen. And we push for commitments with teeth. Our standard domestic organizing
agreements contain expedited arbitration, so that parties can re-adjust their conduct quickly if so ordered by an
arbitrator, before a campaign environment is tainted beyond repair.
22
  UNI and Securitas Agreement, available at
http://place.uniglobalunion.org/LotusQuickr/pub/PageLibraryC1257824003A7C09.nsf/h_C584938BF113738FC125
78AA004FD1D8/FC478C05DC5B5A40C12578AA0050FF34/?OpenDocument

                                                         9
The UNI-ISS global framework offers another example. ISS is a Danish-based MNE that began
as a security company and now also offers its clients what it calls "facility services," such as
cleaning and landscaping. This GFA contains a mediation and binding arbitration provision.23

Finally, Lance Compa’s A Strange Case gives the account of G4S, now headquartered in the UK
and the world's largest security company. SEIU and its international union partners through UNI
waged an extensive global campaign that highlighted the company's alleged failure to abide by
ILO labor standards in multiple countries. G4S ultimately signed a global framework agreement
with union access. It provides for arbitration as an option upon mutual agreement.24

Some have also argued that international framework agreements should be enforceable in U.S.
courts under section 301 of the Labor-Management Relations Act, since they are contracts
between a union and employer. An excellent 2010 law review article in the Columbia Human
Rights Law Review explains why.25

Although GFAs may not be enforceable in court or contain external enforcement mechanisms,
they usually require monitoring and joint labor-management committees to promote dialogue to
address disputes. This benefits the local unions and union federations by giving them a direct
channel to engage in social dialogue with centralized management at headquarters when local
communications break down.

These joint labor-management mechanisms also benefit MNEs. For example, even the most
responsible MNE may struggle to keep track of the activities of their subsidiaries and suppliers.
Local workers and unions who feel empowered and have a meaningful outlet to report conditions
on the ground can provide an important pipeline of information to central management.

Where joint labor-management committees and monitoring systems are not effective in
addressing concerns, unions and global union federations can turn to other methods to enforce a
GFA’s commitment to more labor standards. If companies do not live up to their commitments
and labor-management dialogue fails, unions and GUFs have also initiated CSR campaigns as a
method of enforcement. This kind of campaign draws attention to the gap between a company’s
stated principles and its practices by raising issues of working conditions, pay, training, unlawful
anti-union tactics and retaliation. Unions might write reports for investors, challenge company
representatives at stockholder meetings, hold demonstrations or run media campaigns. Unions
have also filed complaints with the National Contact Point for the Organization for Economic
Cooperation and Development (OED), attempting to engage in a mediated process with an MNE.
23
  UNI and ISS Agreement, available at
http://place.uniglobalunion.org/LotusQuickr/pub/PageLibraryC1257824003A7C09.nsf/h_C584938BF113738FC125
78AA004FD1D8/3E1939837F766C41C12578AA0050B203/?OpenDocument
24
     Supra note 3.
25
 Sarah Coleman, Note, Enforcing International Framework Agreement in US Courts: A Contract Analysis, 41
Columbia Human Rights L. Rev. 601 (2010).

                                                    10
These CSR strategies work most effectively when the member unions of GUFs have the capacity
to effectively respond to conditions on the ground and to work together. It is especially
important that there be cooperation and collaboration between member unions in the MNE’s
home country and local unions in the country where the MNE is not living up to the agreement.

One recent example of a coordinated global campaign to enforce a GFA comes from an IKEA
subsidiary in Danville, Virginia. In the wake of sustained public pressure in Denmark, Germany
and elsewhere over environmental issues, IKEA signed one of the earliest GFAs with the
Building and Woodworkers International (BWI) in 1998.26 The IKEA GFA was revised in 2001
to include the internal IKEA code of conduct (IWAY) which is directed towards IKEA suppliers
(including IKEA-owned subsidiaries) and addresses environmental concerns, as well as social
and labor relations issues.

The IKEA GFA and Code of Conduct includes language specifically stating that IKEA suppliers
“shall ensure that employees are not prevented from associating freely with any lawful
organization that represents the best interests of such. The IKEA supplier shall not prevent
employees from exercising collective bargaining.”

In 2008, over 300 workers at a Danville, Virginia IKEA Subsidiary, Swedwood, began a
campaign to organize a union with BWI affiliate the International Association of Machinists and
Aerospace Workers (“Machinists”). BWI attempted to engage with both IKEA and Swedwood
on behalf of the Machinists to ensure that these American workers would benefit from the GFA
and social dialogue. In the talks, BWI asked IKEA and Swedwood to voluntarily recognize the
union at Danville, as well as to allow union organizers access to the workers so that they could
inform them of their rights and the benefits of unionization.27

As these talks were ongoing, BWI received reports from workers in Danville that they were
facing retaliation and discrimination for supporting the union. In 2011, the unions learned that
Swedwood had hired a notorious union-busting firm.

According to BWI, mounting public pressure led to an informal dialogue held in the Netherlands
between representatives of IKEA and BWI. IKEA representatives reiterated their position not to
recognize the union or allow access to the workers. However, they proposed holding a “fair and
friendly election.” According to BWI, IKEA communicated that once the union filed for an


26
  Peter Wilke, Andre Sobczak. & Isabelle Schömann, Codes of Conduct and International Framework Agreements:
New forms of Governance at Company Level - Case Study: IKEA. European Foundation for the Improvement of
Living and Working Conditions p. 4 (2008), available at
http://www.eurofound.europa.eu/pubdocs/2007/927/en/1/ef07927en.pdf.
27
  International Centre For Trade Union Rights, Global Agreement with IKEA: Dialogue for Deaf Ears?,
International Union Rights Volume 18 Issue 2 (2011) Page 18.

                                                     11
election, IKEA and Swedwood would not oppose or intervene and they would not stall the
process so that workers could have their election as soon as possible.

Despite this social dialogue, BWI reported that Swedwood management continued to follow the
advice of its “union avoidance” firm. They reportedly engaged in tactics including delaying the
election by disputing the bargaining units; “voluntary” anti-union meetings with Swedwood
management; rumors of plant closure; and veiled promises of bonuses should the union be
defeated.28

In response, members of BWI affiliated unions in Sweden, France, Germany, Netherlands,
Switzerland, Malaysia, Hong Kong, South Korea, Cambodia, India, Philippines, Canada,
Panama, and South Africa conducted actions to support the Danville workers. These actions
include taking pictures in front of IKEA stores with “I Vote for IKEA/Swedwood Union” signs,
sending video solidarity messages, writing personalized letters to the workers in Danville, and
calling IKEA stores urging IKEA to stop its interference in the election campaign. 29

In July 2011, the Danville workers voted to join the Machinists’ Union, and in December of that
year, they ratified their first collective bargaining agreement. The BWI/IKEA example serves as
a reminder that global union solidarity has an important role to play in implementing GFAs and
improving standards and conditions for workers.




28
  See BWI Blog posts and updates, including http://www.bwint.org/default.asp?Index=3639&Language=EN; and
http://www.bwint.org/default.asp?issue=ikea&Language=EN.
29
     http://www.bwint.org/default.asp?Index=3627&Language=EN

                                                    12

								
To top