Warehouse Worker Pilgrimage Ends in LA, Illinois Strike Begins
September 19, 2012 7:23 am
As warehouse workers employed at a Walmart Distribution center in Mira Loma, CA concluded their six-day, 50 mile pilgrimage in Los Angeles, about 30 workers at a Walmart distribution center near Joliet, IN walked off the job. Joliet workers, possibly bolstered by the Mira Loma workers’ show of strength, claimed similar wage theft and unsafe conditions.
The California warehouse workers delivered a 37,000 signature petition to Walmart’s downtown LA offices on Monday. By Tuesday, hundreds were gathered in solidarity with strikers from the Mira Loma warehouse.
Kathleen Miles of the Huffington Post reported on the pilgrimage, which has been dubbed the “Walmarch” by supporters and participants:
The six-day pilgrimage followed the route taken by the trucks that carry the goods they load — from Riverside, Calif., to downtown Los Angeles. The workers and supporters slept on church floors along the way and relied on supporters for meals.
The march was undertaken by about 30 warehouse workers, who bravely walked off the job despite the fact that they lack a contract (the workers are employed by subcontractors).
Warehouse Workers United has repeatedly urged Walmart to ensure humane conditions at distribution centers. A recent academic study of the warehouse industry in the Inland Empire found that “at least 63 percent had been injured on the job, 83 percent suffered from a job-related illness, and 84 percent had witnessed an injury to a coworker.” In addition, the California Labor Commission slapped the logistics company operating the Mira Loma warehouse with hefty fines related to wage and hour violations in late 2011. A class action lawsuit was recently filed on behalf of workers against the operators of the Mira Loma warehouse, and operators allegedly used intimidation tactics to discourage workers from becoming involved in the class action. The “Walmarch” was inspired by the 1965 farmworkers’ march led by Cesar Chavez.
Meanwhile, across the country about 30 Walmart distribution center workers went on strike in Indiana after being suspended for delivering a petition demanding a living wage and regular hours. The workers, supported by Warehouse Workers for Justice, make dishearteningly similar complaints of wage theft and horrible conditions to their California brothers and sisters.
Phillip Bailey, a worker at the Elwood, IL warehouse spoke to Huffington Post on the hostile action from RoadLink, the logistics company operating the warehouse:
“They retaliated against us for delivering the petition,” said Bailey, who earns $10 an hour loading and unloading boxes. “People are sick of taking it — the constant speed-ups, never knowing when you’ll go home from work. … My major complaint is we don’t know when we’re going to leave.”
A class-action suit alleging wage and hour and overtime violations was filed against RoadLink last Thursday, and warehouse workers announced their strike at a Chicago rally supporting the recently-suspended teachers’ strike.
The actions of striking workers have drawn the attention of Walmart’s PR department. Dan Fogelman, a Walmart spokesperson, vouched for warehouse workers’ access to water, and stated that the temperatures inside warehouses are largely controlled by outdoor weather conditions. He also stated that the retailer is developing a system of random health and safety inspections at subcontracted facilities. Conspicuously absent from Fogelman’s response was any word on efforts to crackdown on wage theft.
Image from here