Friday, June 17, 2011

IKEA Store a Monstrosity

Driving down Interstate-25 to Park Meadows Mall yesterday, enjoying the view of the Rocky Mountains, my mood suddenly shifted to a darker place as the monstrous new IKEA store in Centennial overwhelmed the landscape and blocked my view of the entire West Coast. Though it was heavily courted and promoted as some sort of savior to the local economy, the IKEA "Warehouse" also generated some controversy and opposition from residents who worried about its intrusiveness. The primary concern was about the size of the sign, which is, no doubt, a ridiculously over-sized sign for the area. The store asked for and received an exemption from codes. However, the sign pales in comparison to the blight represented by an enormous blue box of a structure that IKEA calls "a store."

I was already turned off to the arrival of IKEA after news began to surface about IKEA (in America) and its anti-labor practices. In Virginia, IKEA workers have been facing serious opposition to desires for collective bargaining after dealing with dangerous work conditions, discriminatory business practices and low wages. These stories are all the more disturbing considering IKEA's origin in the worker-friendly country and culture of Sweden. Where IKEA's Swedish workers make nearly $20/hour, have excellent benefits (provided by taxes), and five weeks of vacation, American workers are starting at about $8 with no benefits. Certainly, the higher wages and benefits given in Europe didn't prevent IKEA from growing into a strong company. Yet, they clearly had no desire to continue practices that improve society once a cash starved society and government allowed them all the shortcuts.

Certainly, Colorado needs the jobs and the commerce, and everyone hoped IKEA would be a boon to the local economy. But, as I've noted before, there are companies that benefit a society as a whole with a sense of being "stewards of the community" .... and then there are companies like America's version of IKEA.

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