Archive for November 2012
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In These Times
Walmart may soon find it harder to avoid responsibility, as it has in the past, for the mistreatment of workers in its long supply chain.
Lawyers who sued temporary labor firms in a giant Walmart warehouse last year for violating federal and state laws with their abusive labor practices today took what they described as the “historic” step of adding Walmart as a defendant in the case.
They claimed that their investigation and depositions undertaken for the original suit filed in October 2011 show that Walmart really “calls the shots” at the warehouse and should be held liable along with its subcontractors for “stealing millions of dollars from the low-wage warehouse workers who move Walmart merchandise,” as Michael Rubin, an attorney for the workers, wrote to the Center for Public Integrity.
At the Mira Loma, California, warehouse owned by Walmart and exclusively serving its stores and other distribution centers, Walmart contracts with Schneider Logistics to run the operation. Schneider provides the workforce, most of whom are temporary workers often long-term permatemps—hired through staffing agencies who are subcontractors.
American Public Media
A dozen temporary warehouse workers from Chicago and Los Angeles descended on Walmart’s home town of Bentonville, Ark., last month.
Walmart was holding its annual stakeholders meeting at a big conference center in town — closed to the press and labor groups. As the warehouse workers waited impatiently in the parking lot to give company executives a box of petitions collected by supporters all over the country, they struck up a tune, improvised on “My Girl,” an old Motown number: “I guess you’d say, what can make me feel this way — organizing, talk about organizing. . .”
The workers have been organizing for better pay and treatment back home, with rallies, strikes and protest marches outside stores and warehouses. In Bentonville, they sat down quietly with some of the company’s top brass.
Chicago Business Journal
Employees at a Walmart distribution center in Elwood, Ill., outside Chicago, were among those who traveled to the discount retailer’s headquarters in Bentonville, Ark., to present concerns about their treatment, according to a report by American Public Media’s Marketplace.
The workers, who are part of a group called Warehouse Workers for Justice, primarily protested their status as “perma-temp” workers who are actually employed by a staffing agency. They claim that despite doing the same work as other people employed directly by Walmart, they are paid considerably less per hour and do not have access to employment benefits. Furthermore, they said they are subject to unsafe working conditions and company retaliation if they attempt to organize.
American Public Media
This year, low-wage warehouse workers who move goods for Walmart in Southern California and Northern Illinois have taken their case for better treatment to the public, and to the company’s own doorstep.
With support from big labor unions like the Teamsters and United Food and Commercial Workers, they’ve held marches and strikes at warehouses and stores, and protested in Walmart’s hometown of Bentonville, Ark. Last month, they delivered a box of petitions and got a meeting with company executives, where they presented complaints of sub-standard wages, unsafe working conditions, and retaliation if they complain or attempt to organize.
Walmart issued a prepared statement to Marketplace from V.P. of Communications David Tovar after the meeting, saying: “We had a very productive conversation with some of the workers who came to Bentonville last month. We appreciated their perspective, we listened very carefully. Criticism can be a helpful voice sometimes to hear. We’re taking these allegations very seriously, because we hold all of our service providers to high standards, and remain committed to ensuring that workers throughout our supply chain are treated with dignity and respect. We’ve spent the last few weeks developing protocols to have independent auditors inspect each of the dedicated third-party-run facilities that we utilize.”
American Public Media
There’s been plenty written over the years about poor wages and working conditions in Asian countries, such as China, that produce cheap consumer products for American retailers like Walmart.
But some questionable labor conditions exist right here at home, where those imported goods are funneled into the domestic supply chain. Labor groups and regulators point in particular to problems faced by temporary workers who staff huge warehouses that line freeways and rail yards outside Los Angeles and Chicago.
Southern California’s Inland Empire — a vast desert region east of Los Angeles — is home to the largest number of warehousing facilities in the country, including several that move goods for Walmart. The area’s boom as a national logistics hub over the past several decades has been facilitated by cheap land for development; access to freeways and rail lines, along with extensive public-private investment in transportation infrastructure; massive imports from Asia that need to get to distribution centers and big-box stores inland; and a base of low-skilled blue-collar workers available to do the warehousing and truck-driving work required.
Walmart’s warehouse No. 6909 is located in Mira Loma, Calif., about 50 miles east of the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. A steady stream of Walmart and Sam’s Club trucks roll past on their way to the loading docks inside.
Javier Rodriguez is a temporary worker at the warehouse. He’s worked there for more than a year. Looking past the guard house at the gate, he describes operations inside: “What’s arriving is merchandise for different Walmart destinations,” he says, “and our job here is to sort it and send it in trailers all over the United States.”