Walmart Workers Strike in California

Search form

Walmart Workers Strike in California

Walmart Workers Strike in California
Fri, 11/16/2012 - by Dave Jamieson
This article originally appeared on Huffington Post

Photo: Occupy Riverwest

Workers at a Walmart-contracted warehouse in Southern California went on strike Wednesday to demand better conditions at their facility, according to Warehouse Workers United, a union-backed group representing the employees.

The walkout is apparently part of a broader strike expected to hit the Walmart supply chain in the run-up to the holiday shopping season, as workers and labor activists try to pressure the world's largest retailer into raising standards in both its stores and its contracted warehouses. Associates at Walmart stores have threatened to strike on Black Friday, potentially disrupting the megaretailer's plans for what is traditionally the biggest shopping day of the year.

The workers in Southern California are employed by a temporary labor agency called Warestaff, which contracts with a warehouse run by the logistics company NFI. Although none of the workers are employed directly by Walmart, the goods that pass through the NFI facility are destined for Walmart stores throughout the U.S.

Kathleen Hessert, a spokeswoman for NFI, disputed the scope of the strike. Hessert said the first shift of the day was only missing two workers, although Warehouse Workers United said two dozen workers from all shifts had joined them on a picket line and agreed not to work.

"[Warehouse Workers United] is distorting all the facts. This company is not what they're portraying them to be," Hessert said. "Workers are supposed to share with their supervisor any safety concerns they have whatsoever. If they're not happy with [the temp company], then there are lots of other means they can share their concerns."

David Garcia was among those protesting. He said he worked at the NFI facility for a year as a temp earning $8 an hour without benefits. Before being let go last month, Garcia was employed as a "lumper" -- someone who loads and unloads containers on the warehouse docks. He typically got around 30 hours per week, he said.

"I was promised a 90-day probation period when I started," Garcia told HuffPost. "It's been a year and they're not talking about me being hired [full-time], or getting any benefits, no raises, not even a promotion for me to start driving a forklift. I've got five kids and a wife to support and that’s really impossible with $8 dollars an hour."

Warehouse Workers United, which represents many workers in the Inland Empire area of California, said the facility's workers initially planned to walk out on Thursday but moved their strike up a day.

"More workers were getting called off of work," said Guadalupe Palma, a spokeswoman for Warehouse Workers United. "It's clear workers are being silenced because they called off the most active workers, the ones who've been speaking out on the health and safety problems. A group of them ... were told not to come in."

Warestaff did not respond to requests for comment.

Dan Fogleman, a Walmart spokesman, said the company has taken workers' allegations at the NFI facility seriously, doing announced and unannounced visits to investigate.

"We have spent the last several weeks developing protocols to have independent auditors inspect each of the dedicated third-party run facilities we utilize. We expect to begin these audits in a matter of days," Fogleman said. "We hold our service providers to high standards and remain committed to ensuring workers throughout our supply chain are treated with dignity and respect."

Warehouse workers at Walmart facilities in Southern California and the Joliet area of Illinois initially went on strike in September, complaining of faulty equipment, unsafe working conditions and low pay. Both regions are major shipping hubs for U.S. retailers bringing product into their stores. Although the warehouses do hold some good jobs, much of the work is done by low-paid temp employees who work on "piece rate" and don't have benefits like health coverage or sick days.

As HuffPost reported last year, the complicated contracting arrangements at many such warehouses lead to a lot of finger-pointing when it comes to workers' welfare. Injury and employee turnover rates are high, and many workers complain that they can't survive on the low pay and unreliable scheduling.

Garcia took part in the original strike at the warehouse in September.

"It's just basic things we're asking for," he said. "Working equipment, and dignity. We break our backs every day. With no health benefits, someone gets hurt here they're basically disposed of."

Article Tabs

Despite propaganda from Big Ag, biotech and the Grocery Manufacturers Association, surveys show vast majority of residents in Washington, Oregon and Idaho want to know what's in their food.

When a journalist in a news article refers to a woman as “strident,” you know what you’re reading is a hit piece – and that's what the New York Times produced about Occupy Wall Street activist McMillan.

A new kind of tracking tool, canvas fingerprinting, is being used to follow visitors to thousands of top websites, from WhiteHouse.gov to YouPorn.

Reporting that CEOs in the U.K. earn 162 times more than the average worker, the High Pay Centre calls on government to put immediate caps on executive salaries.

On Monday, 80 protesters with Utah Tar Sands Resistance halted access to equipment where the company seeks to begin work on the first fuel-producing tar sands mine in the state.

In the 80s and 90s they called them "IMF Riots" – but what the biggest international investment organizations and consultants now see happening looks a whole lot bigger.

Posted 6 days 11 hours ago

Part 3: Chris Hedges interviewed Harvard professor and MayDay SuperPAC founder Lawrence Lessig about his plans to break the hold of big money on American elections.

Posted 6 days 11 hours ago

Patient details were shared with organizations including private health insurance companies, many based in the United States.

Posted 6 days 11 hours ago

The aggressive foreclosures and water shut-offs are a deliberate scheme to shock the population, drive long-time residents out of the city center, seize property and gentrify downtown Detroit and the waterfront.

Posted 6 days 11 hours ago

All over the world, publics are beginning to reject the privatization mantra – because the privatizers, it turns out, have a serious problem with their pitch.

Posted 6 days 11 hours ago
A Housing Justice Movement Builds in Chicago

Amid the urban sprawl and industrial decay that have come to mark Chicago is a growing epidemic of foreclosures and evictions now threatening the lives of tens of thousands of the city’s residents.

The spoken word, including yelling, is one of the most democratic tools in a citizen’s arsenal.

Corporate Power: Exposing the Global 1%

The Transnational Institute offers a visual insight into who dominates our planet at a time of economic and ecological crisis.

Through a complex maneuvering of legislative bills, Nebraska politicians are using unconstitutional means to give TransCanada the right to build the Keystone pipeline through their state.

A coalition of labor, community and environmental groups is making it clear that the ultra-conservative American Legislative Exchange Council isn’t welcome in the union town.

Sign Up