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US retailer incurs Swedish union wrath

Peter Vinthagen Simpson · 29 Nov 2009, 14:59

Published: 29 Nov 2009 14:59 GMT+01:00

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Staff at the store on Biblioteksgatan in the heart of Stockholm's main shopping district wanted to unionise and thereby gain access to occupational pensions, insurance, and overtime for working evenings and weekends.

But the company elected instead to invite them to submit their resignations and re-apply for their jobs by signing up with a staffing agency, the Aftonbladet newspaper reports.

The company has now decided to go one step further and lay off its entire workforce of 38 staff saying that it intends to run its business completely with sub-contracted staff.

The firm has now found itself in a war of words with union representatives and staff members who argue that they have been unfairly treated.

"They express something that has no base in reality. They continue to work but will be employed by another firm. They will be offered good human resources support which we have not been able to live up to," Marianne Bäärnhielm at the firm explained to the newspaper.

Bäärnhielm claimed that the firm had been looking for a solution to more efficiently manage its staffing needs for some time and the decision to lay off its entire staff has nothing to do with the union move.

In a debate article in the newspaper Josefin Brink of the opposition Left party, argues that companies should be banned from replacing their staff with sub-contracted personnel.

Brink argues that the loophole in Sweden's stringent employment security regulations (LAS) needs to be tightened up.

Story continues below…

Tommy Tillgren at retail workers union Handels argues that everybody gains from a collective agreement and disputes whether Urban Oufitters have found the more "effective and rational solution" that they claim.

Marianne Bäärnhielm was unwilling to confirm whether outsourcing staff would end up costing the firm money and argued only that the information was party to a contract between Urban Outfitters and staffing agency Academic Work.

Academic Work has however signed a collective agreement with the retail workers union and any staff that choose to move over to the staffing firm will be subject to it.

Peter Vinthagen Simpson (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

15:47 November 29, 2009 by anticommie
Good for urban outfitters, its about time some one stand up to the ridiculous work rules in sweden.
15:49 November 29, 2009 by maxbrando
Welcome to USA capitalism!! This is the reason we in the USA have so much and most of you poor suckers there have nothing to show for anything. Your social system has driven everyone in Sweden bankrupt (Saab, Volvo, SKF, etc, etc, etc)
15:53 November 29, 2009 by Nemesis
This is a disgrace.

That decision was based purely in dogma and nothing to do with business. This is nothing to do with capitalism, this is purely an ideological hatred of workers.

There is no need for such blatant disregard for workers rights anywhere in Europe.

Urban Outfitters should be boycotted by everyone. Such a company should not be welcome in Europe, let alone Sweden.
16:08 November 29, 2009 by Céitinn
Up the workers! For too long employers have tried to run over it's employees. They think they can treat us like rubbish whilst 'awarding' themselves a large pay increase and bonuses for their hard work!

Everyone has a right to union representation and any employer who denies a worker this is a charlatan and a shister!
16:11 November 29, 2009 by MD1
The remark made by anticommie leads me to believe that they do not live in Sweden. To suggest the history of unions is soley connected to communism is also false. A union does not simply suggest one political ideology. That is rather obtuse thinking. To look at unions positively just think of an 8-hour work day which only first emerged in Europe and the USA around 1920. Did they companies decide that? Anticommie should be thankful for the beneifts he has on account of unions in his country.

Also, if Urban Outfitters would like the benefit of Sweden's business, I think they need to obide by Sweden's policies,
16:12 November 29, 2009 by uunbeliever
@maxbrando diddnt gm go under? I wish we had the guns, crime, obesity, Bush's, war. . . that the great USA has! Long live the USA! ha ha ha ha ha. . ...
16:20 November 29, 2009 by Nemesis
@ MD1

A very good post.

anticommie & maxbrando are not in Sweden.

They like to make statements attacking everyone and everything that does not follow fox news ideology.
16:26 November 29, 2009 by livinginsweden
Herregod! OMG

You mean GM, Ford and now Urban Outfitters are screwing Saab, Volvo and now the average Swedes?

I thought only countries like China and Chinese companies would exploit Swedish technologies and abuse basic human rights.

ha ha
17:19 November 29, 2009 by dammen
Do the Unions actually do anything here in Sweden apart fom suck up to the powers that be and cream off their salary and then charge a lot of money for supposedly helping their members.

Unfortuneately, you have a to be a member or you have no right to unemployment money if you become unemployed
18:01 November 29, 2009 by Rick Methven
anticommie & maxbrando are not in Sweden they are American Trolls.

You can always spot them not just by their Red neck idiot posts that show that they have never been outside of their own county, but by the times that they post 15:00 Swedish time with a 6 or 7 hour time difference that makes it 9AM in red neck land. Scratched the fleas off yet boys?
20:02 November 29, 2009 by hjoian
@maxbrando.....your post just proves how fkucing brainless some americans are....
23:10 November 29, 2009 by diegoveggie
it is true that lots of workers in sweden feel they deserve a high salary/benefits without actually having to work for them. as a manager here in sthlm, i can say that dealing with swedish workers is quite difficult. they are not very productive and demand everything. they don't even want work for it.

i guess it's a socialist mentality, demand more, work less, produce less, less companies employing people, more unemployment, etc.

a bit of a meritocracy could benefit sweden.
23:17 November 29, 2009 by Celc
@maxbrando - I think you meant to say this is the reason why the rich in the US have so much money. It's ok, its a common mistake to make when you look the other way instead of acknowledging and doing something about the social problems of your country.
23:20 November 29, 2009 by crazycoach
Yes the good ol' US of A. Where corporations are lining up at the trough and taking welfare from the hands of everyday working citizens in a move that would make Stalin jealous.

America, where they owe over 8 Trillion dollars to the communist bastion that is China, but it's OK, because if the one thing the Chinese know how to do is make capitalism work without minor things like human rights and the like.

Ah, god bless Amerika
23:26 November 29, 2009 by TvAmazon
Welcome to the real world. Do they want jobs or just to sit around and draw benefits. These employees are fools to try and do this in such a bad economic climate. As a business owner it is tough enough to stay in business make a small profit and be able to provide employees jobs. If they wanted a job with benefits then the employees should go back to school get a good education in a high demand field. They were hired with the understanding that this was what the job offered. They were not forced to work for Urban but took the job with that understanding. Now they want to force Urban to give them something because they are to lazy to go work for it themseleves by getting a better education. Fools everyone of them. Good luck with their next job.
23:49 November 29, 2009 by Nemesis
If Urban opens in Sweden, it does so under Sweden law.

If Urban does not like Swedish law, it should leave.
00:06 November 30, 2009 by TvAmazon
@crazycoach America is not perfect by a long stretch. We have most of the same problems that Swedes do. But we also help out the poor more than any country in the world. We have sacrificed more American lives and blood than any country in the world to bring people to freedom. Yours being one of them or maybe you would perfer to speak German. We have government programs that provide for the needy and disadvantaged (Welfare, Food Stamps, Medicare) We also believe in hard work and that you have to option to choose you lot in life. You work hard and you can do anything (even be president) but we also beleive that you should be able to keep most of the money you earn and not have to give it to the government or to those to lazy to work for it.
00:08 November 30, 2009 by johnsorel
Maxbrando -- I live in the US and I know something about the American economy (a matter in which you are obviously incompetent).

America is bankrupt. Every metric is showing that the entire Objectivist "every man for himself" philosophy that has been at the forefront of American thought for the last 30 years is tumbling into collapse. The problem is that a good portion of Americans are too stupid to realize that their economic paradigms and philosophies are failing them. This is similar to a good portion of Russians that were unwilling to realize that their economic paradigms were failing them also. The conservatives of both societies clung to their outdated and failing ideologies.

The world would do best to begin decoupling their economies from America. They should start becoming less reliant on the American consumer and should stop believing Wall Street and the so-called American "ratings" agencies. They need to find a different reserve currency than the unstable dollar.

They need to stay true to the fact that history has shown that the only successful and sustainable economic model is one that provides a strong-safety net and broad-based worker rights as the foundation to a competitive market economy. Without a strong middle-class, you don't have an economy, you have a third-world oligarchy.
00:58 November 30, 2009 by TvAmazon
@Johnsorel Your comments do not make sense. Show me a society like that which you speak of. Which society has a strong-safety net and broad-based worker rights as the foundation to a competitive market economy (Which society do you speak of ? It isn't Sweden. (8 percent of the population of Stockholm is queuing for an apartment, with an average waiting time of 10 years) This is stupid and doesn't happen in America. Do you get to keep most of what you earn or do landlords and governments take most?

The only economies growing are those with terrible working conditition and little concern for the worker and almost no oversight from the government. America is in trouble and if and when it fails Sweden and Europe will not be far behind. Our strengh is together not seperate. Do you think Sweden could acheive this without America guarding the door of democracy and freedom?
01:43 November 30, 2009 by Chuy
@johnsorel...I agree with you on most of your points. I would like to add that unions (in America) were the last thing that the common people had to check the government and big business. There are many people in the States that are afraid of "big government" not realizing that "big business" is driving governmental policies.

When Reagan broke up the unions in the 1980's it shifted the paradigm of capitalism (in America). Businesses no longer competed with one another by producing quality products and increasing market share through a commitment to excellence. They begun the process to decrease quality, increase quantity and make money off of the American consumer; they've done this collectively which renders the American consumer no choice but to buy crappy products or to pay through the nose for quality. The American concept of quality is also why China will not buy anything from the U.S. which is the major reason why we can't pay off our debt.

Simultaneously while these businesses made enormous amounts of money, they also bought into agriculture, education and services (as they already had a stronghold on industry).

I don't necessarily wholeheartedly agree with union tactics but in many ways they do create balance. I cannot speak on the conditions of Sweden as I do not live there nor do I have to deal with the tax/economic system.
02:25 November 30, 2009 by 2394040
Speaking as an American, you hit the nail right on the head. Looking back, America really started to decline during the Reagan era. And it's getting gradually worse. America's greatest enemy is greedy American capitalists. And they are the same ones who run our government!
02:51 November 30, 2009 by Beynch
It's time that Sweden ended the stranglehold these pathetic, marxist, uuuuuunions have on Swedish life. If they had their way, they'd turn the entire country into an orwellian, unionized, DDR-like paradise. These uuuuuunions have outserved their usefulness and belong in a bygone era. Urban Outfitters did the right thing! May the uuuuuuunions disappear into oblivion. They can singing "The International" as a historic, palme-esque, curiosum each May 1st. Crush the left at the ballot box in 2010!
03:07 November 30, 2009 by Davey-jo
Sack 'em all and say farewell to any European profits. Uncle Sam does not rule any waves any more. I've never heard of Urban Outfitters, until now. They've lost me as customer, they'll lose millions more before the month is out. Boycott Urban Outfitters,
03:29 November 30, 2009 by TvAmazon
Sak'em all and say goodbye to very little if nothing profits. Uncle Sam is not Urban Outfitters but maybe America will keep buying all those quality Swedish profits. O that's right Sweden does not make anything even Ikea is made somewhere else. Way to go unions Up Up with the worker and down with the bad business. Who needs a job anyway maybe all the free government money can pay for everything.

America did not decline with Regan it freed many parts of Europe and began the Technology revolution that allows everyone to communicate so freely today.

What ever happened to an honest days pay for an honest days work. Now workers demand that you pay for their benefits because they are to lazy to work for them by getting more education and better jobs. Where is the Union for I'm to lazy to wipe my bottom please make someone else do it.
03:49 November 30, 2009 by johnsorel
Tv Amazon - To be honest you have to compare the apartment situation in Stockholm with that of a major US city. Try getting a rent controlled apartment in New York! And if you want to buy in the open market (which you are entitled to do in Stockholm also) you can buy tomorrow but it is not affordable to most people.

Your comparison is dishonest.

Did you know that 1 in 4 children in the US are now living on food stamps?

Did you realize that within 15 years the average American will be paying 40% of their gross income just to health care?

Laissez faire capitalism has never worked. History has shown us this time and time again. The challenge is finding the balance in the middle. America has lost that balance and is largely controlled by ideologues who believe in the fantasy of a laissez faire utopia. They are no different that the communists who believed in the utopia of communism. They are both deluded and destructive.

In 1980 when Reagan was elected, America was the largest creditor nation in the world and had the world's largest trade surplus. Now, 30 years later it is the largest debtor nation in the history of the world (with a brief decline in the deficit under Clinton) -- and with the largest trade deficit in the history of the world.

And Reagan didn't win the Cold War. That is more crazy right-wing mythology. Most sober analysts credit the Soviet occupation in Afghanistan as being a primary catalyst for the collapse of the Soviet Union. Ironic huh?
06:21 November 30, 2009 by TvAmazon
johnsorel - You just disproved you own argument. The comparision is honest but stupid. Economic 101 - In America most cities realize that rent control is stupid. Rent control creats the problem. If you remove government control and allow developers to charge a fair market price then rents go up temporary until more apartments are built because the incentive is greater which then brings the prices back down. If you control the rents the way Sweden does then there is little incentive to build new rent controlled apartments since there are more lucative ways to invest the money (Building places to buy). The reason people can't afford to buy or rent on the open market is that the government takes so much of their money in taxes they can't afford to save up and buy a place. 8% of the population waiting 10 years for rent control is just nuts.

By the way the Food Stamp problem is pretty bad right now in American but it's not 1 in 4 it's 1 in 8 US children currently get some food assistance each month. The biggest majority are only on food stamps for a few months and by the way Sweden spends more per capita than the US for poverty relief.

Almost all American's want to help the diabled and disadvantaged but almost none want to help the lazy and foolish. Your still expect to earn your keep not have someone else earn it for you.
07:09 November 30, 2009 by lingonberrie
Posters #18 and #21 are exactly right.

As the Nero(s) fiddle on Wall Street, the Fed, and in their Government the United States burns; and there is no water to douse the fire.

Nothing more needs to be said.
07:15 November 30, 2009 by rymagnusson
"Almost all American's[sic]"? How can one person claim to speak for all of the nation, especially with such a poor grasp on contemporary American history and apparently grammar as well?
07:43 November 30, 2009 by johnsorel
TvAmazon - if your theory were true, Americans would have a much higher rate of home ownership than Swedes do. This simply isn't true. The rates are about the same.

The one difference though is that Americans are much more in debt and nearly 1 in 4 are paying on homes that are worth less than the amount of debt being paid. If you take into account the debt load carried by each, the percent of Americans who can afford to own a home would be much less and thereby the homeownership rate in America would be less than in Sweden. America has artificially propped up its home ownership rate through questionable debt schemes. This is part of what precipitated the financial collapse.

RE the food stamp issue. It is 1 in 4 children that are on food stamps in America. One in 8 is the number of people in the total population on food stamps.
08:23 November 30, 2009 by xenyasai
I hope Urban Outfitters pull out of Sweden. If they want to do business in Sweden they have to follow Swedish law, like every other business does. Seems like other international companies are doing fine without treating workers like cattle.

If you own a business you have to know the laws in the country you do business in. You can not complain about it if someone demands that you follow the law. The laws are there for a reason, because employers love to pay as little as possible to their employees. You should be paid for all the time spent at work.

I am disgusted to see some of the comments here. Some of you are aware that we are in the year 2009 and this is Sweden we are talking about? We are not back in the 50's in the USA.

@TvAmazon: If you dislike Sweden so much I really hope you are not living there. If you are, you should leave. If you do not like the laws in Sweden or Europe in general, you are free to leave.

I am curious where all that hate comes from. Someone in Sweden or Europe hurt you or something?

People like you can go home to your own country if you are so proud of it. And please, do not come with that nonsense that USA saved everyone in WW2. You guys were just waiting to jump in right in the end so you can claim to be the heroes of WW2. Anyone can do that. Wait for everyone to be tired and then attack with full force claiming to be the saviour.

It is true that you guys have blood on your hands, but that is because of your so called war on terror. More like war of terror.

It is people like you who give good Americans a bad name.
08:43 November 30, 2009 by Nemesis
@ anticommie, maxbrando, diegoveggie, TvAmazon and Beynch

Since you hate Sweden so much and the laws which protect workers all through Europe, I have some helpful suggestions for you.

On the internet at the following websites,

blocket.se you can sell your belongings

hemnet.se you can sell your home

flysas.com you can book a one way flight not only out of Sweden, but out of Europe.

Your hatred of Sweden and its progressive employment laws is obviously incompatable with your extreme medieval beliefs and makes you extremely uncomfortable. Roughly the same laws are being rolled out across Europe.

The following countries have employment laws that are compatable with your beliefs.

Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Somalia, USA, North Korea, Iraq, Quatar, Dubai and Kuwait.

You can move to any one of those countries, where your medieval mindset will fit in perfectly.

We have no need in Europe for people with your hatred of employee's.

Slavery ended a long time again.

All adults have the vote.

All women are equal in law to men.

All children have rights.

All employee's are equal in law.

That is the reality of Europe. It is a reality that you hate and despise.

Please leave Europe and don't come back.
08:55 November 30, 2009 by Weekend_warrior
Firstly, I do not think 38 people working in a retail store like Urban Outfitters needs a union. They are operating under Swedish law and no union is required. Their move to let go all of their staff was quite an aggressive one, I may say, and it certainly is big business pushing back.

Some background on myself...Born and raised in San Francisco, I lived in Sweden for about 2 years and currently live in the amazing New York City. Oh, and I'm half Canadian. In regards to America going bankrupt, our current debt load is about 98% of GDP. It was 121% during WW2. Japan is 170% and Italy, Germany, and France all EU countries using the Euro having a higher debt to GDP than the United States. We are not going bankrupt, nor can it be said we're somewhere we've never been before.

The USD will remain the world currency for at least another decade, as nothing out there is stable enough or been around long enough (euro) to compete. I too welcome a basket of currencies, however. As a banker, I firmly believe in Capitalism, but also love the way Sweden runs its beautiful country. And, I could point out flaws in both societies, as I am sure you all could, with any country.

America is the country everyone loves to hate, and well...I guess it has to be someone. But I do not know the America or Sweden that most speak of here. Perhaps it's where I was raised or where I live now. Sweden always welcomed me with open arms and perhaps one day I will move back there. Anyways, just thought I'd try put some positive spin out there :)
09:20 November 30, 2009 by mrp

"All employee's[sic] are equal in law. "

No, all employees are not equal under the law. Ever heard of LAS? A very real systematic discrimination against younger people on the market. But let's say all employees are equal, why should they get better treated by the law just because they're (or want to be) part of a union?

If Urban Outfitters have broken the law--which I'm not sure they have, then they will go to court.

The problem with unions in Sweden is that they are massive, political, and connected to a political party (the social democrats).
09:36 November 30, 2009 by J Jack
Hoooraah! And pls everyone stop blaming the US or using this article as a chance to bash America. It's purely an issue of staff mutiny, probably led by one over zealous, mis-informed and immature leftist member of the employees with a power complex and alternative agenda. At retail level most young staff are afraid of hard work, chipping a fingernail would justify compensation. Thank You Urban Outfitters and Merry Christmas!
09:49 November 30, 2009 by xenyasai
@Nemesis: Well said!

You also forgot to mention Australia, for places to these anti-Swedes can go to. Workers rights here are horrible. People are actually working for free when they are forced to work overtime.
10:36 November 30, 2009 by Rick Methven
J Jack and the other American posters on this story You know Jack Sh*t about the way that unions work in Sweden.

Swedish labour management relations are a the best in Europe. Strikes very rarely occur because there are union representatives on the board of the companies at local management and national/group levels. There is not the US and THEM attitude that is prevalent in non unionised companies. In Sweden the workforce is considered an integral part of the company working for the good of all. Workers, management and shareholders.

What the system does do that is most probably at the heart of the matter here is to make the business more transparent and stop shady practises that a foreign owned company might want to indulge in.
10:38 November 30, 2009 by DAVID T
I've never come across such a bunch of lazy workers as in Sweden. They do as little as possible for as much as possible.
10:47 November 30, 2009 by skatty
Nothing unique about it. Most of big famous companies in Sweden use the same method for years, it makes easy for companies to fire people.

However, in contrast with USA, it may not work well enough for Sweden. It takes very, very long time to find job in here. Both hiring and firing in USA is faster, but in Sweden it is just trying to make firing faster when hiring is very, very low and slow.
12:28 November 30, 2009 by Nemesis
@ xenyasai

I know Austrialia has bad working rights, but it is nowhere near as bad as the countries I have mentioned, which is why I don't mention it in those pieces of advice for people looking for medieval mindsets.

Australia has a long way to go before it gets as bad as North Korea, Uzebekistan, USA, Dubai, Saudia Arabia, Iraq or Afghanistan.

Sooner or later workers rights will get better in Austrialia.
13:00 November 30, 2009 by calebian22
"Brink argues that the loophole in Sweden's stringent employment security regulations (LAS) needs to be tightened up." -quote from article

A loophole is legal. All the talk about following Sweden's laws in the comments are pointless. Urban Outfitters is doing nothing illegal. Their actions may be distasteful in comparison to the norm in Sweden, but you can't blame them for attempting to increase their profits within the limits of the law.
13:33 November 30, 2009 by krigeren
Swedish labor law is ridiculous. It is one reason why international companies are not looking at Sweden as a realistic alternative.

I am not against unions on the other hand I am for flexibility. Within the Scandinavian context Denmark is a much better example of unions in practice.

In Denmark you have the ability to hire and FIRE at will yet, on the other hand you have a robust set of social safety nets for the worker when they get let go.

The Swedish system patronizes time in job as opposed to merit. Unions here in Sweden cause more aggravation than the benefits they offer to employers.

I have been in several negotiations with union leadership here in Sweden and right now they are a bit bent over a barrel when they are dealing with foreign owned companies. They really don't have much negotiating leverage and generally cave in to demands because it today's world its just to easy to pack up and relocate.

To reiterate, I am not against Unions I am against the development of Unions in Sweden and how they became incredibly detached from global market forces and how high a price Swedish industry has has to pay in large part because of Union and potentially Swedish attitudes.

But these things are part of underlying currents.......I talk to foreigners who came here 20,30, even 40 years ago. There were always jobs for these people...They were never asked "Do you Speak good Swedish" because back then hiring practices were pragmatic...these workers did not need to speak Swedish to their mop or their hammer. These immigrants worked VERY hard...most own nice houses and have a very comfortable life....I have been in many of these houses and their are some neighborhoods where it looks like there is an Italian house, a Polish house, and a Greek house all on the same street.

In Today's Swedish labor market employers, unions, the general business climate have created so many rules and "standards" that are more about maintaining a perception of what a Swedish workplace should be rather than a workplace that is designed to compete. This attitude is setting Sweden back...Sweden needs to harness and employ migrant labor not build walls to keep them out.
19:07 November 30, 2009 by xykat
Well Swedish companies get away with hiring consultants and temp people ALL THE TIME and they don't get attacked by the unions. An American company does it and they are fed to the wolves. Kind of UNFAIR don't you think!!! I know a lot of Swedes who haven't had permanent jobs in years because of the practice of Swedish companies hiring temps and consultants. The government and unions STILL do nothing about this situation.

I do think Urban Outfitters was unfair about what it did and how it did it. I think they should have tried to come to an agreement with the employees. Despite popular belief American companies are as good as Swedish companies to work for. Often if you work hard and are dependable you will get rewarded. This is not always the case at Swedish companies at least not if the boss has hired his best friends etc.

My experience with unions are that they are useless. I do not understand the practice of having a "union representative" working at the same company. That representative will always be partial to the company they work for since they probably have some fear of loosing their own job.
20:12 November 30, 2009 by diegoveggie
it's almost laughable to read all these people talk about capitalism and its evils. the poorest countries in the world are the ones that don't have access to the market, basically the least capitalists countries are the poorest, for ex. cuba and north korea. when countries implemented capitalists reforms (china, vietnam) they managed to raise millions of people out of poverty. lots of work ahead, no doubt, but still, millions of people are better off.

i can't help but laugh at people in the west talking about capitalism, etc, while they are sitting comfortably in their couches, with the latest laptops, watching lame tv shows and complaining about the west. i have a quick idea, move to cuba, try to open a business and travel during the holidays. try to open a bank account and go to a restaurant for dinner. capitalism allows us all these freedoms that millions of people can't enjoy in so many countries. don't take 'em for granted!
21:13 November 30, 2009 by skatty
Interestingly, Most of the comments show that many writers actually didn't work for Swedish companies. Thousand of people in Sweden are working under the same conditions of the mentioned article for Swedish companies, especially big, fat companies!

It's not that Sweden is a socialist country and its Unions are the best in the world and…..Blaa… Blaa….! It's a capitalist country and got a welfare (created by British M. Keynes) like most of other Western Europe and reduced it in the last decade like rest of the Europe, that's all!!
22:10 November 30, 2009 by mibrooks27
Having lived in both Sweden and the U.S. I can tell you that this is what you can expect when you are so stupid as to do business with a U.S. company. American corporate policies are based upon ruthless predatory behavior, skating as close to criminal behavior as possible, and never considering the consequences of their actions beyond short term profits. You've already seen this with Volvo, are experiencing it with Saab. How much evidence do you need? Don't o business with American companies or investors. They will ALWAYS cheat you.
23:14 November 30, 2009 by Uncle
I would like all the loyal students of Lenin and Mao to start relaxing their eyebrow muscles. First, the calls for illegal activity of the predating Americans and the pouring of ashes on the heads is a bit over reactive, to say the least.

Nothing illegal was done. Even the union spokesman is saying that it is a "loop in the Swedish law". Usually it means "it is legal, but we still want to b..tch about it".

You have never visited a Swedish car making factory, or a big office with plenty of 50 y/o permanent employees.

I knew a girl who was called into the office of a warehouse manager, because she was issuing material documentation "too fast" and by that increasing their statistics. He told her to "relax" and to reduce her tempo by 3 times!!!

ANY of you can go to almost any factory in Sweden and see 3 people sitting with their legs literally in the air on every 5-6 people working. Very enlightening and gets the entire lay-off hysteria into proportions.

In regards to office. I have met a woman, who went on a "stress leave" on her SECOND day at work. She was out for a year and her caring union has negotiated 2 years salary for her (not including the year at home, God forbid) and good references, so she could go and suck the blood of other "capitalistic predators".

I also met a guy who had a fight with his boss and left to South America for a 6 months trip on "stress leave" (full salary coming into his account regularly of course).

I even saw people who come to work stinking like a bottle of vodka and cautious CEO is politely asking the worker if he feels good and whether he would like to take a day off on company's account...

I have a Santa Claus bag of stories where the companies are the victims of the predating workers who have no sense of shame.

You know what? Screw the companies and their shareholders (who can be old ladies investing their small savings....). Screw free market and screw the rich people who worked 20 hours a day for 20 years to become rich...

What about thousands of well educated young people who cannot find a job because useless, uneducated and lazy bastards have deadlocked the industry with the help of the big union bully?

What about the fact that we will have no pension whatsoever, because nowadays old people are drying the companies of their profits to sponsor their "sommarstuga i Varberg, vinterstuga i Fjällen, segelbåt, skoter, 2 Volvo och häst"? What about the Union negotiators who refuse to allow people to work a 4 day week until a company gathers some cash in this crisis and by that cause layoffs of thousands? "Who cares about these thousands? They are young and inexperienced (last in-first out). The most important is that I kept my coffee-machine buddy, so he could do nothing for 5 days and not 4 days a week."
02:03 December 1, 2009 by GefleFrequentFlyer
My best friend owns a chain of eating places in sweden, so after hands on dealing with the swedish workforce and thier abuse of the system, I'll think Im qualified to offer my opinion.

Cheers to Urban Outfitters! Nobody is FORCING anyone to work there. If you don't like thier rules, get out. You don't like your wage, your working environment and those money grubbing managers and executives? OUT! Unions cannibalize capitalism and grind whole economies to a halt.

I guess when your option is to live on state welfare because you got a hangnail, it sounds like a good reason to roll over dead.

But, our righteous swedes will have no problem buying sweatshop loppis sold at Ikea or any other low rent outlets, but are the first in line to protect rights of a swedish union job. Funny. Isn't it?
02:05 December 1, 2009 by xenyasai
To all anti-union and anti-Sweden commentators. I lived in the Netherlands for not long ago. I lived there for 2+ years. Certain things in society were a bit strange to me. Still I stayed and did my best at respecting their ways, trying to adapt to how they run their country and being respectful to their culture. It is very simple. If you really hate the country you live in, you should just leave. You are then doing yourself and those who like it there a huge favour. Of course, there is something called constructive criticism, but the comments I have read here is not constructive criticism. These anti-Sweden comments are from people who think the country they move to should do a 180 degrees turn to cater for them. Well, if you miss your country that much, go home. Show some respect. I left Norway because I did not feel at home there; instead of staying like many do and complain daily about.
04:00 December 1, 2009 by TvAmazon
Just because people don't agree doesn't mean that it's not constructive. If we all agreed we'd just be robots. Maybe Urban should hire some of them (robots I mean) I heard they could care less about pay and benefits and their Union stinks. Just want a way to kill some idle time.

Seriously Unions were needed when business's forced people to work in dangerous conditions and fired people not doing the work. Now days they are doing a disservice to worker's and business by forcing business to pay for more than is reasonable. I think most people would be surprised at how skinny these business are NOT FAT. I own a business and once you pay all the taxes, fees, insurance, inspectors, utilities, supplies, maintenance and other endless stream of bills, most of what people think of as profit is gone.
06:47 December 1, 2009 by randyt
@johnsorel said, "Laissez faire capitalism has never worked." Not a 100% correct statement, it has always worked in sending all the wealth of a nation to the top one to five percent of the richest people in the country. It will again in the USA given time and we will have 95% slave labor and 5% rich fat cats.

While I don't live in Sweden I have been there and conducted a lot of work there. Most of the American comments on here do come from folks that get their ideas from the likes of one-college-course-drop-out Glenn Beck of FOX News, and have never spent anytime out of the USA other than maybe a trip to some Mexican border town to get drunk.

I once looked into the minimum wage standards for Sweden only to find out you do not need a government minimum wage, because of your unions.

Yes those that say our, the USA's, down turn started with Ronald Reagan are correct. He began the greatest socialist shift of wealth redistribution since before Coolidge - all to the top. And, Bush continued it.

(Reagan's socialism: http://www.truthout.org/032009R What is funny from my experience is that I had to do a paper on Reaganonmics at Chapman U.,Orange CA back in 1992 and found the same points as Batra does here.)

As for Americans protecting everyone's freedoms, first that is not our job, and second that is not what the Bush-Wars are all about, so how about cutting the defense budget to where it is not more than half our discretionary spending. Second bring our kids home and let the Middle East solve their own problems. (Note: Even under Clinton we spent more on defense than the next dozen contries combined.)
06:56 December 1, 2009 by Uncle
To all "pro-union" commentators.

1. Sweden is a democracy and an open debate is welcome.

2. Disagreeing with the policies of the unions does not mean "anti-Sweden"

3, Currently the unions are number 1 reason for unemployment in Sweden, because they defend the rights of a very specific group, while throwing others to the dogs.

4. Unions are also killers of companies and by that - killers of jobs and killers of savings of people.

5. In this case, a union is irrelevant, because people were fired because they WANTED to unionize.

6. Even verrry verrry swiiiidish companies like Volvo (both cars and trucks), Scania, Saab, Ikea, SKF, Astra Zeneca etc, are keeping a huge buffer of "consultants" who are easy to fire in case of an economic downturn. Right now full BUILDINGS in Volvo city, Trollhättan and Astra are empty of people. Where are the "sweden lovers" then? Where are the suggestions to go back where one came from? You are tiresome with your theoretical understanding of things and your opinion based on philosofical concepts...
07:01 December 1, 2009 by xykat
Comment: I am not anti union, I am a member of a union. I haven't had the best experiences with the union here and I do not feel they really protect people rights like they appear to. It is no better then the situation in the USA although it pretends to be which is much worse! At one job that I worked a year at I noticed that the boss had hired 2-3 buddies of his. One of his friends, wife left him so he went on medical leave for 6 months. This guy had barely been hired. After the "friend" comes back he gets hired permanently without having to do any work to prove himself. I had been hired before this other guy and I was in line to become permanent first. I complained and they said he had gotten the permanent job because he was in a different department. The other friend of his goes around the company and brags how he was hired without having to apply for the job. Then he goes on medical leave too and I am there doing all the work of these other guys plus my own work. It finally gets to be too much for me yet I remain working there so I complain first to the boss then I complain to the union. In the end nothing happens and I get let go because of layoffs yet his friends get to stay there many months longer. At another job that I barely started, everyone at this company seemed nice and welcoming but it was very click-ish. They said it was no problem that I did not speak Swedish fluently but in the end it seemed like it was an issue. I got no warning whatsoever that there was a problem. I did my work and my training and came earlier then everyone else every morning. Then one day I come in and I am asked to leave the same day at 9am and to leave anything belonging to the company behind. I was traumatized and shocked. I never knew someone could be let go so quickly in Sweden. This had never happened to me in the USA. Later the supervisor told me that people had complained about my lack of Swedish and that I was being fired for this reason. She said all this to me in Swedish. I complained to the union about it. The manager denied she had ever said this to me and I did not have proof. She lied, probably to protect her own job. I received no justice and I didn't have a job in the end. I do not feel I got justice in these situations. I am a hard working and highly motivated foreigner, I never miss a day of work, I show up to work early in the morning, I work overtime, I have NEVER taken medical leave of any kind and I am always the one who is there to help other coworkers yet despite this I am always the last to get hired permanently and the first one to go in the event of a layoff. All I ever expected was to be treated fairly for working hard. But it doesn't always work out that way. Now I am just resigned to take anything and not complain. I found that if your a foreigner and complain it just comes back to haunt you in the end. Until things improve you just have to bite your lip.
09:01 December 1, 2009 by xenyasai
@TvAmazon: There is a huge difference between constructive criticism and plain old complaining. Based on what I have read so far I see nothing constructive about the criticism given about Sweden and unions.

How ironic. You bash your chest and tell the workers that this is the real world. And what are you doing? Complaining about not getting paid enough for your own work. Boo hoo, cry me a river.

Not sure if it was you or someone else that said 'the workers chose to accept the job at Urban Outfitter'. Well, you chose to run your own business, now deal with it. Maybe you should go back to school and get a higher degree in a job where there is high demand, if you are so unhappy with your situation? And now I guess you will retaliate by telling me how much you love your business and blah blah blah.

How do you expect to be taken serious when you first tell people to stick to their job and then start complaining yourself? Double moral is a funny thing, isn't it?

@xykat: You have had one horrible experience. Wha hasn't? Let me guess, it was an entry level job? I haven't lived in Sweden for some years now, but if my memory serves me right, an employer can fire you without no cause at all within at least 6 months in Sweden.

My experience with work in Australia has not been the best. To be honest, it has been the worst experience ever in my life. Still, I try not to be too judgemental towards Aussies in general.
10:54 December 1, 2009 by J Jack
Rick Methven, if you are vain as to be checking this, ref:

[J Jack and the other American posters on this story You know Jack Sh*t about the way that unions work in Sweden.]

J Jack is a Kiwi, not American (which could mean anything from Canada, USA, Mexico, Argentina etc...) who has carried a Swedish Person # for 14 years, is a member of a Swedish union he knows nothing about and has 3 children who are Swedish Citizens. U.S.A. owned retailers uplifting their rights under Swedish Law? Yes, they are among us. I'll accept your apology in advance. God Jul!
10:59 December 1, 2009 by kmbr
You're working at the Urban Outfitters, how much do you think you should be making? These are entry level jobs, not jobs designed to support a family or an inner stadt Stockholmian lifestyle. They are good for college kids, or second incomes, etc.

It's a different world than the one Henry Ford entered. ya just can't pay the clerk at Urban Outfitter's 75k a year without paying $75 for a shirt and $4 for a head of lettuce. Wait, you already do that...
11:12 December 1, 2009 by wabasha
does anybody read the 56th comment?? haha. urban outfitters has sweet T-shirts. clerk is not a career! its a stepping stone towards something else.
18:06 December 1, 2009 by mkvgtired
As some have already stated these are entry level jobs. The workers knew what pay and benefits they would be receiving when they took the job.

I was at a local grocery store chain about 6 months ago talking to one of the cashiers. She told me she always wanted to go to college but it was not worth it because she was a member of a union and was paid well. She told me her hourly rate and I figured out if she worked a 40 hour work week she would be making $54,000 per year! She told me she never went to college, but for her job I doubt a high school diploma is even required. How many college graduates make less than $54,000 per year? I now know why food is so expensive, and no longer shop at that store. Not to mention this chain has been on the brink of bankruptcy several times (wonder why). This is just one example of how unions distort the market rate for certain jobs. I think the fact that she is putting off (probably indefinitely) bettering herself due to her artificially high wage speaks for itself. Why go to college and make $40,000 when you graduate when you can keep your current job and artificially inflated salary? This money does not come out of nowhere, the prices of food, clothes, etc. are all inflated because of union intervention.
00:19 December 2, 2009 by wotist
@ Mkvgtired

No, $54000 is not the average wage for a cashier in Sweden. No cashier in Sweden make that much - not even with working the maximum allowed overtime. Cashiers are close to the bottom, wage vice. Though the gap to say an industrial worker isn't automatically that big. People working in looking after kids in kindergarten with only a "gymnasiet" degree make quite a bit less. People working in kindergarten looking after kids with a college degree make...not a whole lot more (but certainly more). No college graduate (working in their field) in Sweden make less than cashiers. Certainly not in the private sector. I'd say that the average in the private sector is 50-100% more. An the cashier pays for the college graduates education through his/her taxes.


Urban outfitters are screwed in Sweden. What they did is a bad business decision, pure and simple. And if you're pro capitalism, isn't good business what it's all about?? The Union (in Sweden) doesn't have the power that it used to. The workers don't support the union the way they used to. Workers don't trust the union the way they used to. A lot of workers even despise the union.But acting the way that Urban outfitters did - that's suicide. A part of me wishes them luck. But mostly their stupidity makes me smile. If I was a shareholder in that company, I'd be rather upset with the incompetent management.
10:15 December 2, 2009 by BrittInSweden
@wotist Share holders are likely to welcome the change as it leaves Urban Outfitters free to hire and fire as it wants and needs to without all the Swedish staffing rules by using sub contractors. That in turn can save UO money in the long run as they don't need to keep on staff they have no need for in low times of turn over.

Not great for the workers obviously but it makes good business sense to do what they are doing, especially in todays economy.
12:20 December 2, 2009 by samwise
what is this?

so the ones being "neutral" throughout the entire evil slaughtering give lectures on morality now?

how many time more disgusted would you be with sweden if you are already this disgusted with the states?

it's totally upside down.

I just hope this does not represent the majority of the population here, or does it?

"People like you can go home to your own country if you are so proud of it. And please, do not come with that nonsense that USA saved everyone in WW2. You guys were just waiting to jump in right in the end so you can claim to be the heroes of WW2. Anyone can do that. Wait for everyone to be tired and then attack with full force claiming to be the saviour."
16:32 December 2, 2009 by mkvgtired
American military casualties 400,000+, Sweden military casualties 200. I can see your contribution. The US did not want to go to war. Many American lives were lost only a few years before fighting in Europe (US: 100,000+, Sweden: 0), in case you forgot. It is not America's fault that Europeans couldn't go without killing each other for more than two decades. Many countries can be credited with the allied victory, but the major players were the USSR, the US, and the UK. Without any one of these country's contributions an allied victory would be far from certain.

The US would have a much easier job fighting terrorism if Europe was not financing it through its welfare system, and allowing terrorists to freely plan their carnage. The 9/11 hijackers lived in Germany for years. The London bombers grew up in the UK. Many attacks on Israel were planned in the UK. Swedes seem to enjoy defending their immigrants who use social assistance to travel to such sunny vacation destinations as the tribal region of Packistan and Somalia (with no intention by the authorities of ever investigating a link to terrorism). The fact is, the EU is a bastion of terrorist activity, and Europe does nothing about it because they don't want to "offend" anyone. The fact that so many attacks throughout the world are planned in Europe while the authorities look the other way means your hands are a little red as well.

Back on topic, there is only one Urban Outfitters in Sweden. I fail to see how fighting this will be financially feasible. Especially if the store is not operating during the Christmas shopping season.
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