by Doug Nesbitt
Three modest but successful info pickets marked the first coordinated action by labour activists against the IKEA, the multinational corporation that has locked out over 300 IKEA Richmond workers in British Columbia for more than 13 months.
At IKEA Ottawa, over twenty people gathered at noon and managed to hold their picket right at the entrance to the massive big box store. Ignoring requests to move from some staff, handing out dozens of flyers to customers, the info pickets managed to turn away some customers. Members from CUPE, PSAC and community activists were present. The local action came together through the local labour-community group Solidarity Against Austerity, Take Back the CLC activists, and Facebook organizing.
Eighteen people set up info pickets at IKEA Etobicoke in suburban Toronto. The picketers were kicked off the property almost instantly but set up a picket at the entrance to the driveway. This caused traffic delays by holding up cars at an intersection. Members of OPSEU, Unifor and CUPE were on the line.
At IKEA Burlington, five picketers also handed out flyers to passing motorists. The action was endorsed by the Hamilton & District Labour Council, the only action to get formal labour support. Members of CUPE and SEIU were there.
The June 21 pickets were called less than two weeks after Take Back the CLC called for the actions. Only a couple days before the actions, 140 IKEA Richmond workers sent out a petition to CLC President Hassan Yussuff, Teamsters Canada, and a number of labour councils calling for coordinated weekly pickets at the twelve IKEA stores in Canada and a country-wide boycott.
Building the next action
The actions were a great first step and Toronto and Ottawa activists showed they could get decent numbers on very short notice. The smaller action in Burlington, also organized with short notice, shows you can win formal labour support. This is a first step towards winning support from other unions.
The next action ought to be July 5, giving us two weeks to prepare. It would also be foolish to risk a flop on the Canada Day weekend on short notice.
Organizing the action means calling through your contacts by phone, sending out a couple email blasts, and making a Facebook event page. Introduce boycott and info picket motions at your local union meeting or labour council. When the action takes place, someone has to be assigned to walk around with a sign up sheet and take down everyone’s names, phone numbers, emails and their unions or community groups. This is necessary to build a list of contacts that can be called and emailed before each action. Make sure you put a call out for union flags, a megaphone and materials to make signs beforehand. While at the info picket, make full use of social media by tweeting updates and photos using the hashtag #boycottIKEA.
IKEA will be prepared for the next round of actions and it will be unlikely to get a picket at the front entrance, like was done in Ottawa. Be sure to scout out your local IKEA in advance. Locate the intersections, crosswalks, and parking lot entrances where you can legally hold up traffic and/or hand out flyers.
The goal isn’t to cause a scene with security or police. The goal also isn’t to piss off customers, but it’s going to happen anyway. Their Saturday shopping is of no importance, especially when you compare it to the lives of the 300 locked out workers at IKEA Richmond.
The goals of the info pickets are four-fold:
- to show solidarity with the locked out workers
- to let the company know that this lockout will face increasing opposition across the country
- to create the conditions for the broader labour movement to adopt this campaign
- and to forge links between activists locally and from across the country through coordinated action