Warehouse workers file against 2nd agency

Bolingbrook Sun

JOLIET — A class-action lawsuit was filed Thursday against Select Remedy, the temp agency that staffs the Walmart warehouse in Elwood.

On Thursday, representatives from Working Hands Legal Clinic, Chicago Workers Collaborative and Warehouse Workers for Justice held a press conference in Chicago to announce the filing in Cook County Circuit Court.

According to the lawsuit, warehouse employees are being financially mistreated because they are not paid for all of the hours they work, and they are not paid for overtime.

Select Remedy, a California-based company, could not be reached for comment.

Walmart spokeswoman Michelle Bradford said Walmart hired another company to manage its warehouse. That company hired the temp agency.

“We work to comply with all labor laws and regulations,” she said. “And we rely on our third-party vendors to do the same.”

Mark Meinster, a board member for Warehouse Workers for Justice, said the lawsuit and action taken last month against Road Link, a temp agency that staffed the Bissell Homecare warehouse in Elwood, are only the beginning.

In the Bissell case, complaints on behalf of workers were filed with the U.S. Department of Labor, the National Labor Relations Board and the Illinois Department of Labor. The companies involved claimed no wrongdoing.

Eye on the industry
The two cases are just the tip of the iceberg in Will County, Meinster said Thursday morning as he waited for warehouse workers in front of the Walmart on Jefferson Street in Joliet. The group gathered at the Joliet site and then drove into Chicago for the press conference.

“We feel that the logistics industry in Will County needs to look at this problem and take responsibility for what’s happening in this supply chain,” Meinster said. “These could be very good, blue-collar jobs. There’s no reason these jobs shouldn’t be paying a living wage and shouldn’t be providing decent benefits for people.”

Will County has the highest concentration of temp agencies in Illinois on a per capita basis, said Meinster, who is the international representative for the United Electrical Workers union. Some distribution companies hire temp agencies to avoid paying benefits including health insurance, and vacation and holiday pay, he said.

“Although you don’t see these kinds of violations everywhere, they are prevalent in multiple warehouses,” he said. “Given that 70 percent of the industry are temporary workers, that we’re going to find more violations like this.”

In the Select Remedy case, some workers weren’t being paid for hours they worked; others were being paid split paychecks for work in different departments to avoid overtime pay, Meinster said.

“Under the law if you work for one employer more than 40 hours a week, they have to pay you time and a half,” he said.

Miguel Deniz, 62, of Joliet worked in the Walmart warehouse for a year. As he waited with Meinster for the trip to Chicago, he talked about his experience as a container loader/unloader. Deniz spoke in Spanish. Interpreter Leticia Marquez, a United Electrical Workers union organizer, translated his comments.

Deniz said he worked for Select Remedy for 57 hours and was only paid for 35 hours.

“I think it is an injustice and an abuse that they are committing against us,” he said. “We don’t always get paid the correct amount. We are always paid differently to cut corners.”

Another warehouse worker was quoted in a press release.

“Walmart is the richest company in the world, but the people who distribute their products are treated like slaves,” said Ruben Bautista, a plaintiff in the suit.

The lawsuit was filed under the Illinois Day Labor and Temporary Services Act.

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