Warehouse Workers Moving Walmart’s Good File Safety Complaint
Posted on July 27, 2012 by jway
Warehouse workers moving goods for Walmart (through a contractor) in Southern California are challenging unsafe working conditions and exploitative terms of employment through Warehouse Workers United. The Daily Kos reports that last week, about 20 workers “filed a complaint with the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) against a warehouse that moves goods exclusively for Walmart.”
In a press release, Warehouse Workers United (WWU) states that the warehouse is: “rife with unsafe conditions including limited or no access to clean water, high temperatures, broken equipment, and unreasonable and unsafe quotas. [Workers] are charged for required safety equipment. Workers are often blocked inside the trailers they are loading for up to 30 minutes with no exit.”
In response to the workers’ formal complaint, NFI Crossdock (one of the contractors in question) management has attempted to retaliate against worker leaders. Carlos Martinez, one of the workers who filed the complaint, was suspended last week shortly after the filing. However, “after workers delivered a copy of the anti-retaliation charges, he was immediately reinstated.”
National Distribution Centers of Delaware, Inc. (which operates NFI) operates four warehouses in California and was hit with $256,000 in Cal/OSHA fines this past January due to over 60 safety violations at its Chino-area warehouses. The fines came about as a result of Cal/OSHA investigations in response to WWU complaints about poor working conditions.
The safety violations are symptomatic of an industry that increasingly relies on temporary workers with low pay and benefits to handle an ever-heavier workload, a trend that mirrors Walmart’s supply chain business model of continuous cost-cutting. California labor commissioner Julie A. Su told the New York Times that “There seems to be an unfortunate model of subcontracting used to cut costs and really depress the working conditions… It really reflects the economy moving to this kind of day-labor system in a way that really can destabilize the economy.”
The warehouse industry isn’t the only place where Walmart’s inhumane demands trickle down to supply chain workers. Mexican guest workers at a Walmart crawfish supplier in Louisiana went on strike in June to protest ‘slave-like’ conditions, and this week, the company was slapped with $248,000 in fines over safety and wage violations. Shrimp processing workers at a Walmart supplier in Thailand went on strike in April protesting poor working conditions, poverty wages and forced labor.
This post was written by Rebecca Cassler.