At a time of year when people are doing a LOT of buying, there’s a lot of messages about the “right” things to buy: sustainably manufactured, minimally packaged, locally made or sourced, fair-trade, and so on. But there’s another “right” way to buy that’s often overlooked – and that’s buying from companies that aren’t involved in lengthy labour disputes with their unionized employees.
Allow me to bring to your attention two companies at opposite ends of Canada whose products you should consider boycotting while their employees are out on strike.
- IKEA. The unionized workers at IKEA’s store in Richmond, BC, have been on strike since May of this year, with the sticking point in the dispute being the company’s proposal for a two-tier wage system, under which newly-hired employees would be paid less than existing employees. The BC Federation of Labour has asked consumers to boycott not only the Richmond IKEA store, but also IKEA’s other BC store in Coquitlam. And along with Teamsters Local 213, the union representing the striking workers, the Federation has launched this radio ad campaign encouraging shoppers to avoid the two IKEA locations.
- Labatt. The unionized workers at the Labatt brewery in St. John’s, NL, have been on strike since April of this year, with the sticking point in the dispute being the company’s proposal for concessions in a new collective agreement. The workers are represented by the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees. The Canadian Labour Congress has asked consumers to boycott not only Labatt-branded beers, but also products imported by the brewery’s owner, Anheuser-Busch inBev.
Both of these disputes involve very wealthy and profitable multinational employers, asking for changes that will hurt workers that likely aren’t very wealthy – workers who, I can guarantee, are very committed to getting a fair settlement if they are willing to picket outdoors at this time of year. You may not think that you alone not buying from either company will be enough to make either company decide to treat its employees fairly and settle a collective agreement – but enough people deciding to take their business elsewhere could make a very significant difference.
If you’re not in Canada, and you want to know what not to buy in your own area, most labo(u)r federations and unions have a list on their website of current strikes or lockouts, or of boycotts that they are supporting to help workers in another area. I encourage you to find this information for your own region, and to support the boycotts and the workers on strike.
Happy labour-friendly shopping!