Workers at a major Walmart-contracted warehouse in Riverside County went on strike Wednesday morning. They are protesting what they say are unfair labor practices that they have faced on the job after months of working in hot temperatures this summer.
The employees—who do not have a recognized union—walked off their jobs during the first shift at an NFI warehouse in Mira Loma, calling, according to a statement, “for an end to retaliation and unfair labor practices.”
“When we spoke out to change terrible working conditions, workers were suspended, demoted and even fired. They spied on us and bullied us, all because we are fighting for dignity” said Limber Herrera, a warehouse worker for four years.
The strike comes one day before workers and their supporters begin a 50-mile, six-day pilgrimage from the warehouse to Downtown Los Angeles.
Workers face inadequate access to clean water, work under scorching heat that reaches well above 100 degrees, and have little access to basic health care, regular breaks and properly functioning equipment. Their wages are low – $8 per hour and $250 a week, or $12,000 per year. Workplace injuries are common.
Workers’ proposals to fix these abuses have been met with threats and intimidation by management. Workers are employed by the New Jersey-based NFI and a temporary labor agency, Warestaff. Both companies are Walmart subcontractors, but the retail giant has ignored repeated attempts by workers to meet with them.
As the largest retailer in the world, Walmart dictates the standards of operation in the logistics and distribution industry.
“These workers have exhausted all options,” said Guadalupe Palma, a director of Warehouse Workers United, an organization committed to improving warehousing jobs in Southern California’s Inland Empire. “Walmart must stop ignoring warehouse workers and intervene to uphold its own stated ‘Standards for Suppliers,’ eliminate inhumane and illegal working conditions and sit down directly with warehouse workers to hear about their experiences in the warehouses and figure out how to improve working conditions.”
More than 85,000 workers labor in warehouses in Southern California, unloading merchandise from shipping containers that enter through the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, and loading it onto trucks destined for retail stores such as Walmart. The National Labor Relations Board is currently investigating numerous federal charges filed by the warehouse workers.
A press conference launching the pilgrimage march will be held Thursday, September 13, 10 a.m. at 601 S. Milliken Ave., Suite A, Ontario. Warehouse workers, California Assembly member Norma Torres, Rev. Eric Lee of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, United Farm Workers of America president Art Rodriguez and clergy members will be present.
Follow the march on social media using the hashtag #WalMarch
More information at www.WarehouseWorkersUnited.org