(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,
Breaking News: Warehouse workers who move suitcases are on strike at Walmart luggage and apparel subcontractor Olivet International. The bulk of the Riverside County facility’s inventory is sold by Walmart and the strikers hold the retail chain equally culpable for the poor working conditions employees claim exist at Olivet. The work stoppage is aimed at retaliation allegedly suffered by workers who drew public attention to safety risks at the warehouse.
According to a post by Josh Eidelson that appeared today on the Nation‘s website:
Today’s strike is backed by Warehouse Workers United, a project of the Change to Win union federation. It comes two months after 21 Olivet warehouse employees filed a formal complaint with the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health, alleging rampant safety violations: emergency exits blocked by boxes and merchandise; forklift brakes, seatbelts, and horns that don’t work;
David Acosta, a leader in the fight to improve warehouse working conditions, is back to work today. David was fired from his job as a forklift driver at a critical Walmart-controlled warehouse in Mira Loma, California at the end of May for allegedly violating a safety policy. David and his coworkers fought back against his unfair dismissal and retaliation by the warehouse operator, Schneider Logistics, for helping expose wrongdoing at the warehouse.
David is a lead plaintiff in a massive federal lawsuit that exposed millions of dollars in stolen wages. The lawsuit, of which Walmart, Schneider and the temporary staffing agencies that employed warehouse workers are defendants, helped end decades-long scheme to defraud workers.
“We know that Walmart is in control and now we will know the extent of their involvement to defraud workers,” Acosta said of the lawsuit.
In October 2011, workers who were jointly employed at the Walmart warehouses by Schneider Logistics,
Yesterday members of Warehouse Workers United and their supporters confronted Scot Rank, the CEO of scandal-plagued Walmart de Mexico, at UCLA’s Anderson School of Business. The warehouse employees are fighting for improved working conditions at warehouse facilities operated by Walmart contractors. This raw video captures the protest.
(Note from Warehouse Workers United: Please take action now — workers like Javier, whose blog appears below, should not be fired with impunity. We will deliver this petition to Walmart today, April 29, 1 p.m., PDT.)
One month ago my son Alex was born. Yesterday I was fired from my job as a forklift driver at a warehouse where we move 100 percent Walmart merchandise.
I am outspoken. I defend my coworkers. I alert management about broken and unsafe equipment. I teach my coworkers about their rights, like what minimum wage is and what they should do when they are injured on the job.
I have been a target of management for a while. They watch everything I do, but it’s not my nature to be silent or scared. I know when I am right. Last year I went on strike to protest the retaliation my coworkers experienced when they spoke to the media and the public about the dirty water (if we had any water at all) that we were given to drink,