Dan Stillwell, a “co-worker” at IKEA for 16 years, says he’s being left behind. According to an article that he authored in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, IKEA’s recent steps toward paying workers more is a step in the right direction, but its policies are still leaving many workers who have worked there for years without any increase in pay.
The recent steps Dan is referring to are increases in base pay for new hires based on what the company deems the “living wage” is in each region. Thanks to actions of low-wage workers who have participated in fast food strikes, Walmart walkouts, and countless other shows of solidarity, workers have been able to put pressure on their employers to create better worker-policies that are both good for the employee, and business.
Dan points out that IKEA is one such company to take notice, and that it is a good start–however since IKEA’s wage increase only applies to new hires, workers like him, who have invested years in the company but don’t work full-time, are still struggling to make ends meet.
It “isn’t just about a dollar amount”, says Dan, who says that his fellow workers across the city of Philadelphia, and the country, are trying to build a better overall economy that works for everyone, not just the corporations and the 1%. “When workers invest in their employers, working hard to build companies and make them profitable, our companies should also invest in us,” he adds.
He continues, showing how although he feels loyal to IKEA, the company has changed over the years:
“I was a senior in high school when IKEA opened its store in Pittsburgh. I got a job in the retailer’s restaurant, making $4.25 an hour, and I loved how we were like one big family at IKEA. I’ve known customers and coworkers for years. On a flight to Georgia, I ran into an old customer who remembered me from his family’s weekly brunch at IKEA.
But companies change. As time passed, I saw the family-like atmosphere among coworkers and management turn more profit-centered as full-time jobs were replaced with part-time positions. When I finished my first 15 years at IKEA Pittsburgh, I was making $10 an hour. Even after working steadily at 40 hours per week, I wasn’t making enough money to survive on in 2003.
Frustrated by the lack of good jobs in Pittsburgh, I moved to New Jersey and Georgia for 10 years. But Pittsburgh is where my family lives. When I came back, I reapplied at IKEA and was rehired at an hourly wage of $9.25 — less than what I earned in 2003.”
Dan stresses that he is grateful for his job, but like many others in his position, not earning a living wage, at any number of hours, is a difficult way to provide for oneself, let alone one’s family.
IKEA workers have recently launched a petition calling for IKEA to raise wages for all employees, not just new hires, as well as offer full-time hours. With his current wages and hours, Dan usually makes less than $200 a week, before taxes, and has had to take up another job in order to pay his bills. He also has trouble saving any money for the future. In fact, living paycheck to paycheck means he’s one check away from financial ruin, he says. He can’t even afford medical insurance.
It’s time for IKEA to return to it’s family-like atmosphere, when it offered 40 hour work weeks and valued the workers who make the retailer the success it is. Despite retail being a driving force of our country’s economy (making up 25% of all jobs here) retail workers are getting the very short end of the stick–while cost of living only soars higher.
Dan concludes that:
“IKEA is a successful and profitable company, and I believe that if it invested more in its workforce, the company would have happier employees, keep employees longer and increase sales. That’s why I and coworkers are calling on IKEA to go beyond its small steps toward a living wage and raise pay more substantially while providing more full-time job opportunities.
The IKEA concept of life — running a strong business with common sense and creating a better everyday life for people — can be put into practice for its workers and customers alike.”
Sign the co-worker petition started by workers in Seattle here: http://www.labourstartcampaigns.net/show_campaign.cgi?c=2493