I recently spoke to the leader of the Service Employees International Union-United Service Workers West, which represents Los Angeles janitors, about some startling information I had heard earlier from a friend at SEIU-USWW.
(This article was reported in partnership with the Investigative Fund of the Nation Institute. It first appeared on The Nation’s website and is republished with permission.)
The call from the temp agency comes in late October. I’ve passed the drug test, cleared the background check, sat down for a quick interview—“Can you lift fifty-pound boxes?”—and completed a worksheet of basic math problems. Now there’s a job. A warehouse just outside the city of Ontario, about forty miles east of Los Angeles, needs more bodies to meet the holiday crush.
They do work for Walmart, Best Buy, “all sorts of big companies,” says the female voice on the line. Orientation starts at 8:15 am; pay is $9 an hour. “Make sure you’re early.” Before hanging up she repeats the order. “Be early.”
On an overcast Tuesday, I pull into the parking lot,
I am a single mother of four. Every day my heart aches with worry about my kids and their futures. Today I went on strike to protest retaliation. I did it for my children.
I work in a warehouse moving Walmart merchandise and I make $8 an hour. In a good week I earn $300. Our rent alone is $800 a month. Going on strike means no paycheck, but your support can help us during this time.
The math doesn’t add up. My coworkers and I cannot support our families on these wages, but when we have spoken up about the poverty we face and the dangerous working conditions inside the warehouse, we have been targeted. We’ve had enough. The warehouse managers follow us around, they have installed cameras to watch us constantly,
On February 14, 68 employees of VWR in Visalia voted affirmatively to join Teamsters Local 948 in an election supervised by the National Labor Relations Board. The election punctuates a very high profile and controversial move by the company from the Bay Area to Visalia and continues the Teamsters struggle with the company.
VWR, which [distributes laboratory equipment], was founded as a local California company, has grown into a global corporation, reporting more than $4.1 billion in sales for 2011. The Teamsters have represented VWR employees at their distribution center in Brisbane for over 50 years. For most of that time, labor-management relations were good. But when Madison Dearborn, a Chicago-based private equity firm, bought the company in 2007 things quickly changed.
In the midst of contract negotiations in 2010, VWR announced plans to close its Brisbane distribution center and move its operations 220 miles south to a new 500,000 square foot facility in Visalia.
“Good morning, everyone. My name is Venanzi Luna and I’m on strike.” With those words, today’s rally at the Pico Rivera Walmart made history as the first ever strike of Walmart workers in the United States.
More than 300 people descended on the store to support the nearly 75 workers who walked off the job today to protest retaliation by the corporate giant. Associates from other stores across Los Angeles, including Duarte, Panorama City and Orange County also joined in the walkout and attended the landmark event. Associates who are members of the group Our Walmart were recently fired for speaking about the cutting of hours, reductions in health benefits and poverty jobs that force many to seek out public assistance programs to stay afloat.
Workers, joined by their spouses and children, cheered and nodded in agreement as fellow store associates talked about what they hoped to achieve by standing up.
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,
Warehouse workers will embark Thursday, September 13, on a 50-mile protest march. Warehouse Workers United says the objective is “to urge Walmart to eliminate illegal and inhumane working conditions in its contracted warehouses in Southern California.”
The pilgrimage will take workers from Riverside to Los Angeles. Along the way they’ll be sleeping on church floors and relying on community organizations for support and meals.
The marchers will be joined daily by supporters and elected officials. Here is the march’s route map. Follow it on social media using the hashtag #WalMarch.
For hundreds of warehouse workers like Daniel Lopez of Riverside, working in unsafe conditions for up to 16 hours a day, for months at a time, is not uncommon. Asking for safe and clean working conditions or a reasonable work schedule could mean losing his job. (Watch Daniel’s video, above, about his experience in the warehouse.)
Last week, Daniel and I, along with other workers, went to Sacramento to urge the California Senate to pass AB 1855. They did, and if signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, AB 1855, sponsored by Assembly member Norma Torres and Senator Juan Vargas, will extend basic protections to tens of thousands of warehouse workers.
Fly-by-night contractors dominate the warehousing industry and provide a buffer between retailers like Walmart and the workers who move their goods. We have seen it many times; staffing agencies that supply workers in warehouses disappear overnight and leave workers without a job and without a paycheck.