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What You Should Know / April 11, 2011

www.latimes.com -- 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.

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