When the MBA’s Meet IKEA

Pretty interesting piece in the LA Times at some goings on at an IKEA plant in Danville, VA:

When home furnishing giant Ikea selected this fraying blue-collar city to build its first U.S. factory, residents couldn’t believe their good fortune.

Beloved by consumers worldwide for its stylish and affordable furniture, the Swedish firm had also constructed a reputation as a good employer and solid corporate citizen. State and local officials offered $12 million in incentives. Residents thrilled at the prospect of a respected foreign company bringing jobs to this former textile region after watching so many flee overseas.

But three years after the massive facility opened here, excitement has waned. Ikea is the target of racial discrimination complaints, a heated union-organizing battle and turnover from disgruntled employees.

Workers complain of eliminated raises, a frenzied pace and mandatory overtime. Several said it’s common to find out on Friday evening that they’ll have to pull a weekend shift, with disciplinary action for those who can’t or don’t show up.

Kylette Duncan, among the plant’s first hires, quit after six months to take a lower-paying retail job. “I need money as bad as anybody, but I also need a life,” said Duncan, 52. She recalled having to cancel medical appointments for her ailing husband because she had to work overtime at the last minute.

Some of the Virginia plant’s 335 workers are trying to form a union. The International Assn. of Machinists and Aerospace Workers said a majority of eligible employees had signed cards expressing interest.

In response, the factory — part of Ikea’s manufacturing subsidiary, Swedwood — hired the law firm Jackson Lewis, which has made its reputation keeping unions out of companies. Workers said Swedwood officials required employees to attend meetings at which management discouraged union membership.

Plant officials didn’t return calls and declined to meet with a Times reporter who visited the Virginia facility. Swedwood spokeswoman Ingrid Steen in Sweden called the situation in Danville “sad” but said she could not discuss the complaints of specific employees. She said she had heard “rumors” about anti-union meetings at the plant but added that “this wouldn’t be anything that would be approved by the group management in Sweden.”

The dust-up has garnered little attention in the U.S. But it’s front-page news in Sweden, where much of the labor force is unionized and Ikea is a cherished institution. Per-Olaf Sjoo, the head of the Swedish union in Swedwood factories, said he was baffled by the friction in Danville. Ikea’s code of conduct, known as IWAY, guarantees workers the right to organize and stipulates that all overtime be voluntary.

“Ikea is a very strong brand and they lean on some kind of good Swedishness in their business profile. That becomes a complication when they act like they do in the United States,” said Sjoo. “For us, it’s a huge problem.”

Laborers in Swedwood plants in Sweden produce bookcases and tables similar to those manufactured in Danville. The big difference is that the Europeans enjoy a minimum wage of about $19 an hour and a government-mandated five weeks of paid vacation. Full-time employees in Danville start at $8 an hour with 12 vacation days — eight of them on dates determined by the company.

What’s more, as many as one-third of the workers at the Danville plant have been drawn from local temporary-staffing agencies. These workers receive even lower wages and no benefits, employees said.

So what happened? Why would a company with a solid corporate culture and decent reputation throw all that away? I wondered what could have caused that, and then read this:

The plant has been run mostly by American managers, along with some from Sweden.

It’s been my experience that the most egregious wingnuttery in the United States often emanates from US law schools and MBA programs.

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92 replies
  1. 1
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    It’s been my experience that the most egregious wingnuttery in the United States often emanates from US law schools and MBA programs.

    I want to argue against this, but I really can’t.

  2. 2
    MaximusNYC says:

    Apparently, Sweden:USA::USA:China.

    (I.e.: We are a country where you can hire low-wage workers to work in crappy conditions to do stuff for which your own country’s workers would expect better wages and work conditions.)

  3. 3
    Trentrunner says:

    I blame Ingmar Bergman for directing Norma Rae.

  4. 4
    drip says:

    Well, Swedes are just Germans without a sense of humor. Or is it the Norse. I get confused thinking about those socialists.

  5. 5
    Maude says:

    IKEA is offshoring to the US. Fancy that.
    To the Republicans and Bill Clinton, thanks, you bastards.

  6. 6
    cmorenc says:

    So now we’ve come full circle and the US is the new third-world country from which advanced industrial countries like Sweden export manufacturing jobs, in order to take advantage of cheap labor that’s non-unionized and subject to minimal, poorly enforced regulations.

  7. 7
    srv says:

    The Harvard MBA program has destroyed the world.

  8. 8
    Walker says:

    If this leads to a trend where foreign companies come in to the US but refuse to hire US management, it will one of the best things to happen to the US in years. All they need to do is hire some lawyers to make sure they are in line with regulations. But do not allow an MBA anywhere near a management position.

  9. 9
    numbskull says:

    It’s been my experience that the most egregious wingnuttery in the United States often emanates from US law schools and MBA programs.

    I work with and am related to many JDs and MBAs. Can’t really agree with the law school dig, but spot on with the MBAs. Most JDs have it all over MBAs when it comes to common decency. Think of The Borg, then add just a tiny sliver of cruelty, and you have every MBA I’ve met with the exception of 2. And I know scores of the little vermin.

  10. 10
    PurpleGirl says:

    This presents me a problem — while I haven’t bought large Ikea furniture pieces, I do like their accessories and I love eating at their in-store restaurants. I’ve gone the Brooklyn store just for lunch. (Swedish meatballs, yum.)

    Yes, American MBAs don’t need to know about the product, just the current trend in business thinking. One widget is the same as any other widget, you know. And people are just different kinds of widgets.

  11. 11
    Asshole says:

    It’s been my experience that the most egregious wingnuttery in the United States often emanates from US law schools and MBA programs.

    A-fucking-men. I’ve met very few people as racist and wingnutty as some of the people I went to law school with. I knew a guy in law school who referred to non-whites as “mud people” who is currently a practicing attorney. I knew several Federalist Society members who told me that the South was better off when they had slavery. I think they’d be happy to hear about Ikea’s worker situation.

  12. 12
    Asshole says:

    @cmorenc:

    So now we’ve come full circle and the US is the new third-world country from which advanced industrial countries like Sweden export manufacturing jobs, in order to take advantage of cheap labor that’s non-unionized and subject to minimal, poorly enforced regulations.

    Proof that trickle-down economics eventually works!

  13. 13
    El Cid says:

    Do all the company rules and pay structures have Swedish names like their products?

  14. 14
    John Emerson says:

    Sweden is offshoring to the third world. Virginia.

  15. 15
    Walker says:

    Okay. I have read the article. I am starting to see this as a possibly intentional move by Ikea. They see us as their Mexico, and are taking advantage of it.

  16. 16
    Warren Terra says:

    The Swedes: horned-helmeted savages sacking and pillaging for two-thousand years – now with clipboards.

    (Yes, I understand the actual problem is probably the professional sociopaths of the American MBA culture, I just thought it was funny to draw a connection back to the days of Ethelred The Unready).

  17. 17
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Asshole: You may have gone to my law school. The Federalist Society is a blight on the profession of law and an insult to Hamilton, Madison, and Jay.

  18. 18
  19. 19
    Jay C says:

    @Walker:

    So then, the main question is:

    Is the U.S. Sweden’s Mexico?

    Or its Malaysia?

    Or its Bangladesh?

  20. 20
    Asshole says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    I’d imagine every school is the same. I remember this one total wingnut kid who was big in the Federalist Society. He used to go up to the black people in bars and try to buy cocaine off them. He ended up working in a prosecutor’s office straight out of law school. I always wondered if he ever managed to help lock up any of the people who’d been selling cocaine to him six months/weeks/hours/whatever before.

  21. 21
    gbear says:

    Ikea, welcome to the banana republic of American managers.

  22. 22
    Judas Escargot says:

    @cmorenc:

    IMO that’s the goal, not an unintended side effect.

  23. 23
    WereBear says:

    Having worked in the South, and then in NYC, I nearly dislocated my neck from the whiplash.

    The Confederates really really really miss the slave system. But they try to make up for it.

  24. 24
    Martin says:

    Ok, this is kind of stupid reasoning by some here. Ikea makes low-cost furniture. Virginia is not far from the US furniture manufacturing center. The cost of acquiring and processing lumber and shipping large (relative to cost) items from Europe is non-trivial. These aren’t iPhones where you can stuff the entire supply for Virginia in a single shipping container, and these aren’t iPhones where all of your components are coming out of factories all over Longhua and being time-to-market sensitive puts a huge incentive to manufacture in Longhua, regardless of the assembly labor wages.

    Ikea, like Toyota and Honda and Nissan, are feeling the cost of shipping and gain no market advantage by making everything out of Europe, and if labor and materials costs in the US are the same or even a touch higher, makes shifting manufacturing a reasonable idea.

    Furthermore, we were the fucking center of global manufacturing up until the 80s. Was that some kind of measure of failure on the part of the US? I thought having manufacturing jobs in the US was a desirable goal of the left? Ok, the Ikea jobs are kind of shitty, but the complaints above aren’t that the jobs are shitty, it’s that the outsourcing is coming to the US. That’s GOOD, you jackasses. That’s jobs. That’s domestic economic output. That increases the tax base, and it decreases the amount of fuel needed to get the goods to market. Who fucking cares what country the CEO sits in. Think it through before you reflexively criticize the move like some neocon, american exceptionalism, flagwaving douchebag would.

  25. 25
    Bob Loblaw says:

    @Martin:

    Martin is a very Serious commenter.

    Stop making fun of America, everybody! It’s totally uncool. MBAs are crucial to our economic vibrancy and success.

  26. 26
    Aimai says:

    Way to miss the point Martin.

  27. 27
    gbear says:

    Well Martin missed the point too. We’re making fun of American MBAs…not the same thing as America.

  28. 28
    cathyx says:

    Perhaps the Swedes look at the US as a third world nation giving it’s workers third world pay, hours and benefits. Just like our view of other third world nations, we think those workers should just be happy they have a job.

  29. 29
    eemom says:

    @Asshole:

    I went to law school at “Harvard of the South” Duke in the 1980s. In my 1st year I had a Constitutional law textbook that I bought used. The previous owner of the book had written notes in the margins of the civil rights cases using the word n****r as shorthand.

  30. 30
    Rob Wolfe says:

    @martin,
    I think the point that you seem to have missed is that the jobs are not “kind of shitty” but the work environment is abusive and more like the third world than the kinds of manufacturing jobs that used to be here.
    There are good jobs and bad jobs. Abusive jobs are really not the kind that we want. Or not the kind I want anyway. But then I don’t have an MBA.

  31. 31
    Punchy says:

    So now we’ve come full circle and the US is the new third-world country from which advanced industrial countries like Sweden export manufacturing jobs, in order to take advantage of cheap labor that’s non-unionized and subject to minimal, poorly enforced regulations.

    If I currently wasn’t so drunk right now, this comment may have drawn a tear. This is way, way, way so fucking sad. But true.

  32. 32
    Arundel says:

    Was discussing with pals online about another MBA “innovation”. The one where poor store clerks are instructed to pressure you for your information, get you to join their “savings club” or whatever. It’s everywhere now, I politely decline, and feel bad because they don’t want to do it either. What bothers me is that it takes a way the small bit of human interaction, brief pleasantries between clerk and customers. Just that space of human interaction in the transaction has been capitalized on, turned into an ad, a sales pitch, by some genius MBA at corporate. Just one more dehumanizing thing in our daily lives, separating people.

  33. 33
    Hermione Granger-Weasley says:

    Swedes are so-cia-lists and proud of it.
    The US is a third world country to them.

  34. 34
    stuckinred says:

    They have a really cool tank museum in Danville!

  35. 35
    Mike in NC says:

    It’s been my experience that the most egregious wingnuttery in the United States often emanates from US law schools and MBA programs.

    George W. Bush was supposed to be such a huge gift to America waaaayyyyy back in 2000 as the “first MBA president”. QED and all that.

    We shopped for furniture at the Ikea store at the gigantic Potomac Mills outlet mall in Woodbridge, VA many years ago. It was like some sort of Scandinavian funhouse where you couldn’t find your way to the exits, but kept retracing your footsteps. Finally escaped exhausted after more than an hour and the wife refused to ever go near the place again.

  36. 36
    General Stuck says:

    Welcome to Gawd’s County Sweden.

    Courtesy of Right to Work

    When Big Daddy Pollitt says you can.

  37. 37
    malraux says:

    Ikea is one of the world’s most evil non-profits.

  38. 38
    stuckinred says:

    @Mike in NC: They have cheap meatballs!

  39. 39
    Bill Murray says:

    @Arundel: sadly, the people giving you the pitch probably have to make a number of sales per day/week etc. or they face punishment

  40. 40
    Butler says:

    @Martin: Whoosh!

  41. 41
    Just Some Fuckhead says:

    There’s a reason big multinational corporations set up factories in third world countries like Danville.

  42. 42
    Anne Laurie says:

    @srv:

    The Harvard MBA program has destroyed the world.

    Wharton would undoubtably sue for its due portion of the credit.

    But seriously, if the human race survives, a century from now I expect historians to be researching the whole MBA concept as a form of death-cult, the sort of human-sacrifice insanity that the Top Ten Percent of a formerly productive civilisation develop as their empire falls apart. Easter Islanders denuded their land to build stone icons, Mayans tore the hearts out of living victims, and USAians sent their ‘best & brightest’ to be inculcated in a death-centered squadron of community assassins who roamed the land like berserkers, leaving smoking ruins in their wake. And even as the sensible members of the society protest (or make quiet arrangements to go underground) the Top Ten Percent keep proclaiming that destroying just one more business/factory/community will surely awaken the hidden spirit of GALT who shall rise up and carry us to paradise!

  43. 43
    PeakVT says:

    @Jonas: But it’s all legal. So that makes it okay, right? Right?

  44. 44
    erlking says:

    Ellen Ruppel Shell showed IKEA’s ugly side in Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture. The sketchy provenance of a lot of their wood is enough to keep me from buying there.

    And most of their stuff is crap. Also. Too.

  45. 45
    jim filyaw says:

    amen. i give you jennifer rubin of the wapo stable of right wing clowns. a law school grad and former labor lawyer (you can guess which side). fled california to virginia where she claims she feels more philosophically comfortable (i guess somalia wasn’t an option).

  46. 46
    Martin says:

    @gbear: Comments 2, 5, 6, 14, 19 didn’t comment on American management. They commented on offshoring to the US as being some shameful thing. That’s bullshit.

    Yeah, I get the point about the shitty US management and I even acknowledged that these were shitty jobs not because they were manufacturing but because of the management.

    US manufacturing jobs don’t make us a 3rd world country – even shitty ones. (BTW, they’ve always been relatively shitty.)

  47. 47
    WereBear says:

    @erlking: It so frosted me when our new coffee maker spit out some kind of internal membrane and was a complete loss after two months. You can’t fix it; it has the kind of screws that doesn’t even let you take it apart.

    So, essentially, they just charged us $20 a month to have a coffee maker.

  48. 48
    Joel says:

    the manufacturing stuff doesn’t surprise me all that much, as IKEA makes most of their stuff in China. I’d imagine that they saw that they could reduce shipping costs without having to increase their wages all that much by building a plant in anti-union Virginia. Look at Rubbermaid.

  49. 49
    Ruckus says:

    It’s been my experience that the most egregious wingnuttery in the United States often emanates from US law schools and MBA programs.

    MBA = must be asshole

  50. 50
    Wolfdaughter says:

    @numbskull:

    The University of Arizona used to have a program called Upper Division Writing Proficiency Exam (UDWPE for short, pronounced “udwuppy”). It was instituted in the 80s because undergrads’ writing skills had gotten so bad. Students took this essay test before being allowed to take upper division courses in their majors.

    Bear with me here. Faculty members volunteered their time. You would spend a morning or an afternoon reading the essays students produced to pass the UDWPE. The students were given a choice of 4 questions to respond to. The questions were not designed to test knowledge in a specific area but to solicit students’ responses to something which might affect them personally. The graders were asked not to consider grammar or spelling (unfortunately) but some evidence that the student understood the question and brought some critical thinking to bear upon it.

    The essays by the business majors stuck out for their poor quality. Shallow thinking, non sequiturs, failure to even address the question they chose to write about. Most of the students’ responses were at best fair to middlin’, and we faculty would read aloud to each other some of the (usually unintentional) funniest passages. But the business essays…awful, just awful. Then these guys go on to get MBAs, some of them, and run big corporations into the ground.

  51. 51
    LosGatosCA says:

    This is a red state problem, not an MBA problem. I assume Virginia is a right to work state. Which would explain the management maliciousness to a greater degree than the type of education of the management.

    Of course, the worst MBA’s work on Wall Street, investment bankers, and VC’s. They are indeed soulless, not mixing it up with the blue collar help. See Walmart. Also. Too.

  52. 52
    Uloborus says:

    @Martin:
    Ah. THAT is the misunderstanding here. Yes, they are saying it is shameful. But not that it’s shameful that we’re accepting. It’s shameful that we’ve been put in the position of being the country where you can get cheap labor because worker protection standards are so lax and the manufacturing economy has been beaten so hard. It’s not the foreign investment itself that’s bad.

    It’s also partly snark, where the actual anger is at bad American management practices and a small amount of hyperbole is being used to extend these to depict us as a third world country.

  53. 53
    Cacti says:

    The MBA kind of stands alone among graduate degrees, in that it makes you a master of…

    Nothing in particular.

  54. 54
    Jay C says:

    @Martin:

    Umm, Martin, assuming you just aren’t one of those conscienceless douchebag MBAs we’ve been dissing in this thread, you’re definitely Missing The Point re IKEA’s labor issues in Danville: it isn’t the issue of manufacturing jobs per se; it’s more a sort of depressing feeling setting in in the realization that the USA – The United F*cking States of America – has become a sort of third-world low-wage exploitation haven for foreigners looking to relocate. Not because we can make stuff better; not because of geographic location – but (apparently) mainly because we operate a whole bunch of states like bigger versions of the Northern Marianas Islands – with about as much concern for the welfare of the workforce.

    Maybe you think this is something to be proud of, man: but there are some of us left who have more than a minimal pride in our country.

  55. 55
    salacious crumb says:

    I agree with the MBA and law school quote. yet let me add that Ikea as a company is no holy company. They have been accused multiple times of illegal logging. Their owner Ingvar Kampard was at one point richer than Bill Gates. You dont get obscenely rich by being a good guy. You push and shove people and employees to the breaking point. Sweden may not allow for it but dont think for a second Ikea wouldnt take advantage of running roughshod over labor laws in places like China and other poor countries. Yeah we have idiotic meathead American managers, but they wouldnt get away with it without approval from the dickheads running the show in Sweden

  56. 56
    tkogrumpy says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: Would that we all had your self control.

  57. 57
    tkogrumpy says:

    @Martin: Dial down the Ad Hom and I’ll sign on.

  58. 58
    gizmo says:

    The European cement companies do the same thing. That industry comes with a huge amount of environmental downside, so rather than deal with the strict regulations that they face in their own countries, they just outsource the dirty work to America and import most of their cement.

  59. 59
    Mark S. says:

    @Anne Laurie:

    Easter Islanders denuded their land to build stone icons, Mayans tore the hearts out of living victims, and USAians sent their ‘best & brightest’ to be inculcated in a death-centered squadron of community assassins who roamed the land like berserkers, leaving smoking ruins in their wake.

    It reminds me of that part in Capitalism: A Love Story where they intersperse footage from a documentary on the fall of Rome with modern day images.

  60. 60
    anthony says:

    As per Martin’s concerns regards shipping costs. I once heard of a Swedish furniture company that managed to slash costs by something called ‘flatpacking’; perhaps they could help IKEA and then it wouldn’t have to aggressively attack wages and unions in order to manufacture in the US.

  61. 61
    NickM says:

    Jackson Lewis says it all to people in the labor world.

  62. 62
    NickM says:

    Jackson Lewis says it all to people in the labor world.

  63. 63
    Jay C says:

    @anthony:

    The IKEA I’ve patronized the most is in Elizabeth, NJ: literally right AT the docks for the Port of NY/NJ: and given the size of the container ships that put in there, it’s really hard to believe that IKEA gets all that much of a break on transportation costs trucking their stuff up from Virginia, vs. shipping it by the hundreds on Megaboats from wherever-in-Europe they make their stuff.

    Cheap wages, no benefits, tax breaks? NOW it makes sense…..

  64. 64
    Newly-minted MBA says:

    Hate the game, don’t hate the players…

  65. 65
    Tissue Thin Pseudonym (JMN) says:

    @drip:

    Well, Swedes are just Germans without a sense of humor.

    No, no. Swedes are Germans that stay neutral in the face of evil. (Sometimes German evil.) The Dutch are Germans *with* a sense of humor.

    As for the main point of the thread, there’s a reason I get indignant when someone responds to my saying that I have a Master’s of Accountancy with, “So, you have an MBA.” No, you clueless git, I studied something useful.

    I took an ethics class with six of my fellow MAcc students and about 40 MBAs. The seven of us spent a lot of time looking at each other in dismay as they got going. The rest of the classes I took full of MBA students they just came off as morans. In that class, they came off as evil.

    If I ever win a big Powerball jackpot, I’m giving enough money to the MAcc program director that he can afford to have enough electives so that his students don’t ever have to take an MBA class. It would improve the quality of the education a lot.

  66. 66
    malraux says:

    I’m wondering why everyone thinks it took American MBAs to make the factory evil. It’s not Ikea uses overseas sweatshops because it’s nice to live in those places.

  67. 67
    Jonas says:

    @Tissue Thin Pseudonym (JMN): Yes, Sweden was so neutral during WW2 that they did not want to impede the Germans who marched through their country to attack Norway. In fact, the Swedes neutrally let the Germans use their railways to get to Norway. Maybe MBAs should be more neutral like the Swedes.

  68. 68
    Bill Murray says:

    @Jonas: well except that the unarmed troops traveling through Sweden between Germany and Norway happened after the surrender of Norway, except for a about 60 “red cross” soldiers and many wounded solders. Norway complained that Sweden was taking its neutral status too seriously. It is true that these were violations of true neutrality but not really similar to what you imply. The Swedes did let Germany transfer an armed division through Sweden to Finland to fight against the Russians.

    the Swedes also allowed their land to be used to train the Norwegian and Danish troops in exile starting in 1943, basically after they stopped the German troop flows through Sweden.

    I give Sweden props for Raoul Wallenberg, the greatest humanitarian of the war.

  69. 69
    Halcyon says:

    In my (present) experience, law school is overwhelmingly made up of liberals and left-leaning sorts, but the few wingnuts that there are all completely insane. The ACS chapter is your usual student group, whereas the Federalist Society is a disgrace to the school and, really, rational thought in general.

  70. 70
    Tissue Thin Pseudonym (JMN) says:

    @Bill Murray:

    I give Sweden props for Raoul Wallenberg, the greatest humanitarian of the war.

    I give Raoul Wallenberg props for Raoul Wallenberg.

    It isn’t just letting troops cross their territory, which *was* a violation of neutrality. It’s not just that the Swedes made a ton of money selling high grade iron ore to the Nazis. It’s that faced with the two great existential evils of the 20th century, the Swedes opted to stand on the sidelines both times, playing middle man.

    Yes, they started to show a backbone in 1943, after it became obvious that the Germans couldn’t really threaten them any longer. They continued to sell them ore until the fall of 1944, however.

    When the going gets tough, the Swedes stay neutral.

  71. 71
    FlipYrWhig says:

    What kinds of things do MBA students even study? My sense has long been that it’s practically a money-laundering scheme, where people who already have money fork it over in order to get a credential that mostly shows… that they had the money to get the credential. What is MBA coursework _supposed_ to be teaching?

  72. 72
    Tissue Thin Pseudonym (JMN) says:

    @FlipYrWhig:

    What kinds of things do MBA students even study?

    They take corporate finance, where they learn methods of valuing companies that don’t work.

    They take just enough accounting to let them think they know something about it, but that involves numbers, so they don’t take much of it.

    They take marketing, in which they learn proper tools of evil.

    They have to take an ethics course, so they know how to fake it.

    Entrepreneurship classes are big these days, but I have no idea what they learn there.

    They have to take management communication, where they learn buzzwords and catchphrases.

    There are operations management classes, which could be really useful, but that would involve serious math, so they aren’t.

    They take a statistics course that doesn’t use calculus, a combination I have trouble really understanding.

    There are IT classes with some sort of bogus name (here at Minnesota, it’s Information and Decision Sciences), which allows them to avoid numbers some more.

    Then they have to have a concentration in something, which usually means more worthless classes in one of the above subjects, but rarely accounting.

  73. 73
    moops says:

    @Tissue Thin Pseudonym (JMN):

    sounds about right. My sister did one, and is still useless at stuff, but thinks she is actually good at stuff, but doesn’t know how to use numbers, or software that uses numbers beyond very simple spreadsheets.

    She is very confident that she is trained in stuff, but doesn’t seem to be good at anything.

  74. 74
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @moops: It sounds like MBA programs are not dissimilar to megachurches in that respect. They leave you feeling special on the basis of your regular attendance with other special-feeling people, topped off with a few generic slogans.

  75. 75
    Amanda in the South Bay says:

    @FlipYrWhig:

    I think the world of MBAs has too many euphemisms and cliches, and its sorta worrisome that a lot of the Silicon Valley startup scene seems infected by the MBA crowd. Just browsing startup websites makes me…well, who the hell can stand reading cliches and euphemisms?

  76. 76
    The Raven says:

    I’m not sure if you get “Croak of the Evening” for this one, or if I’d rather give it to Brad Delong’s cynical summary of the budget cuts.

  77. 77
    Mnemosyne says:

    @malraux:

    I’m wondering why everyone thinks it took American MBAs to make the factory evil.

    Because most of us work in a business climate created by the literally fabulous ideas of the MBAs so we’ve seen their work before.

  78. 78
    RandyH says:

    You know, in Germany, WalMart is a unionized company where everyone makes very good wages and get 4 or more weeks paid vacation and unlimited sick days every year. And it’s still an enormously profitable discount retailer. Imagine that.

    We’re insisting on turning ourselves in to a banana republic. How sad. Hail the MBA’s and their million dollar bonuses!

  79. 79
    kay says:

    Good catch, John Cole.

    It IS MBA’s and this is the problem:

    Several said it’s common to find out on Friday evening that they’ll have to pull a weekend shift, with disciplinary action for those who can’t or don’t show up.
    Kylette Duncan, among the plant’s first hires, quit after six months to take a lower-paying retail job. “I need money as bad as anybody, but I also need a life,” said Duncan, 52. She recalled having to cancel medical appointments for her ailing husband because she had to work overtime at the last minute.

    It’s called Just In Time Scheduling and it’s brutal. They can’t plan anything. This woman is right. They can’t “have a life”.
    She’ll accept the 8 dollars an hour, and she’ll accept the lousy working conditions, but what she can’t accept is the lack of predictability, because she has people who depend on her outside work, and if she can’t show up, there’s a ripple effect through her whole family.
    It’s just insane for parents. Imagine being told you can either pick your child up at day care on time or lose your job. They’re throwing together these insane child care arrangements last-minute.

    with 12 vacation days — eight of them on dates determined by the company.

    That’s 4 days a year that they can put together in a row for a (planned) vacation or holiday or family event. 4 days.

    They’re basically being told to give up their whole family and personal life for less than 20k a year. Imagine what their lives are going to look like after ten years there.

    This is what they object to, and it is a management issue.

  80. 80
    kay says:

    It is also Wal Mart. That’s where JIT scheduling in retail originated, around 2007.
    What they’ve done is made low-wage employees entire lives revolve around the needs of the company, and they don’t compensate them for that, unlike managers or owners.
    It’s the worst of both worlds. Low wages, no control, but with high-earner responsibility and commitment. It’s all the downside but none of the upside.

  81. 81
    anthony says:

    @Jay C
    My point exactly, sorry for the sarcasm. I was just a but gobsmacked that Martin was trying to conflate car manufacturers with a company that’s famous for getting it’s shipping costs to negligible.

  82. 82
    Menu says:

    @Jonas:

    Thank you, Jonas. I was scratching my head when I read “solid corporate citizen” to describe IKEA. I knew I had read somewhere about their ownership by a tax exempt “charity”.

    I think it is funny the lengths people will go to pin this on the Americans.
    IKEA ain’t your friend just because it is Swedish.

  83. 83
    Menu says:

    Also, does anyone know what percent of their goods are actually produced at these factories in Sweden. I was under the impression that most of their stuff was produced in super low wage labor states such as Cambodia.

    I guess I just don’t understand why IKEA has a good reputation. There does not seem to be much to admire about the company– certainly not from an environmental standpoint.

  84. 84
    Lee says:

    They take a statistics course that doesn’t use calculus, a combination I have trouble really understanding.

    I have a Masters in Statistics.

    I have no idea how they would accomplish this past “How many times will a flipped coin land on heads?”

  85. 85
    harmonicbalance says:

    I still love that commercial from a couple of years ago that had a guy on his first day of a new job, the HR lady takes him to this tiny office in the back, gives him a FedEx box to ship and he says to her “But I’m an MBA, surely this isn’t where I belong?” and she says “Oh, yes, you are in the right spot.”

  86. 86
    Yuppers says:

    @Lee: I’ not sure it’s true – I didn’t get an MBA (whew), but I did take Business Statistics as an undergrad which was mostly comprised of pre-MBA students.

    And there was plenty of calculus in that course (and I seemed to be one of the few students who even had any idea what was going on… but that’s besides the point).

  87. 87
    EAP says:

    I have an MBA, and I agree, as well. We actually were required to take a Business Ethics class, but the main point of the whole class was that following the law was good PR. When I asked the prof if it could really be considered “ethics” if you are only doing it to improve your bottom line, he told me that was a topic for another course…oh well

  88. 88
    Pongo says:

    I agree that MBAs are ruining the country, but am not so quick to buy into the Scandinavian ‘egalitarian’ schtick that Ikea is promoting. We had a Swedish exchange student live with us during high school and she was very clear on her disgust with Swedish society’s class hierarchy, which she described very much as a pseudo caste system. It’s just as possible that Ikea’s Swedish management sees workers in Danville as less deserving of the benefits and protections Swedish workers receive. Of course, American managers would do nothing to dissuade them of this, so the folks in Danville might just be getting the worst of both worlds.

  89. 89
    Menu says:

    What is the evidence that the Swedish workers’ wages and number of vacation days (weeks!) are due to the beneficence of Swedish management?

    The idea that crappy wages and working conditions are due to American management…well, that seems to be shopping around for facts so that you may hold on to your view of IKEA as a “good corporate citizen”.
    Maybe it is time to change your view.

  90. 90
    Jonas says:

    @Menu: Agreed. IKEA will use the law to their maximal advantage (as any other corporations would try to do, but IKEA is especially good). So, what matters are better labor laws.

    Yeah, that’s gonna happen soon.

  91. 91
    EGrise says:

    @Pongo: Could you elaborate on her description of Sweden’s class hierarchy? First I’ve heard of it – I always thought of them as a kind of socialist paradise.

  92. 92
    GermanQR says:

    @Pongo,

    Your Swedish “friend” is still laughing her *ss off at your gullibility.

    A caste system. In Sweden. Good grief, really?

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