Two dozen workers at a Walmart-contracted warehouse in Southern California walked off the job Wednesday morning, calling on the companies that benefit from their work to improve conditions at the facility and to end what workers describe as retaliation for speaking out.
The walkout is 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 striking in Southern California are employed by a temporary labor agency called Warestaff, which contracts with a warehouse run by the logistics company NFI, where workers have previously walked out. 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.
David Garcia was among the workers who walked off the job Wednesday. He’s worked at the NFI facility for a year as a temp and earns $8 an hour without benefits. He’s employed as a “lumper” — someone who loads and unloads containers on the warehouse docks. He typically gets around 30 hours per week, he said.
(Check out picket line photos on Facebook here.)
And in related warehouse worker news:
Remember those foreign students who thought they were spending an educational summer in the U.S. and ended up packing product in a Hershey’s warehouse for slave wages?
The U.S. Department of Labor forced the three companies involved in the scam to pay back wages of $213,000 to the students. Exel, the company that owns the warehouse, was fined $143,000 for violating OSHA noise regulations.
The National Guestworker Alliance reports
Exel additionally agreed to new protections for the tens of thousands of workers at its more than 300 warehouses, including:
- Taking responsibility for all subcontractors and temporary staffing agencies on its supply chain;
- Prohibiting misclassification of workers as independent contractors;
- Ending incentive programs that block worker complaints, where managers get a raise if there are no safety reports; and
- Protecting minimum wage from illegal deductions.
More Wal-Mart activity is in the works. Stay tuned.