Watch leaders of the Distribution Centre Walmart Chile Union in Santiago, Chile throw their support behind warehouse workers in Southern California. Filmed at their Third Annual Assembly September 2, 2012.
Cynthia, currently a student at the University of California, Riverside, is actively involved in student organizations on campus such as el Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan (MEChA) and United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS).
When ask about why she thought it was important to participate in the march, she responded:
“As students we need to support the workers. It’s not fair; warehouse workers are not being respected. They don’t even have access to basic human needs, like water. As students, whenever people who are oppressed stand up for themselves, we need to stand in solidarity with them. It is important for students and other people to get involved.”
She first learned about the working conditions of the warehouse workers and the pilgrimage at a USAS meeting. As a student at UC Riverside, a university in the Inland Empire located not too far away from the many warehouses where the warehouse workers are employed, she felt a sense of obligation to help bring justice to the workers.
“At the meeting, we were pumped up. We contacted some students. And we marched the whole 50 miles. I can’t even express my feelings. At first, when I talked to workers they were telling me about the working conditions. They are being exploited. When they touch containers, it’s really hot, and they can burn themselves. They also have many accidents at work because they are working with broken equipment.”
Cynthia calls Southern California her home:
“East Los Angeles is my community. As we were walking through East Los Angeles, I was starting to tear up. It was then, that I knew I was at the right place, at the right time. I also felt sad because I was the only student marching, but now I know it is my job to bring this back to campus.”
Last summer, Cynthia had an internship in Nicaragua where she worked with employees at an Adidas factory.
“In Nicaragua, I learned how women have miscarriages at the workplace. How workers get death threats for organizing. And then I come here, back to the US, and I hear about warehouse workers being exploited. Workers are being exploited everywhere by corporations like Walmart. How can this be happening in the US? I am here today, supporting the warehouse workers and I will be here until the end of the fight.”
Cynthia is studying political science, international relations, and labor studies. After graduation from college, she hopes to continue helping organize workers alongside the labor movement.
WalMarch Dispatch: Day 5
Around the nation, striking warehouse workers, Walmart store workers and community members called on Walmart to take responsibility for the poor working conditions in the warehouses that move their goods. Delegations attempted to meet with a number of Walmart representatives, senior executives and board members. The groups also delivered the now nearly 40,000 signatures calling on Walmart to sit down with warehouse workers to discuss their working conditions.
“Walmart claims it holds its contractors and suppliers to the highest standards and expects them to comply with the law, but when we speak out about it, we get retaliated against and Walmart ignores us,” said David Garcia, a striking warehouse worker and father of two, who although has worked for six years at the same warehouse is still only considered a “temporary” worker because of how the industry outsources and operates with temp agencies.
In Silicon Valley, warehouse workers and Walmart retail associates went to Walmart board member Greg Penner’s house. The workers had been ignored after previous requests to meet. “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 in Mira Loma, Calif.
Want to know more? View the photos here and read more coverage.
Voices From the March
“Today I witnessed a Walmart Associate find her voice. She was not someone who has ever done any public speaking but was [inspired by the Warehouse workers]…the empowerment when people find their voice is encouraging and inspiring.”
– Simone Mock (UFCW Local 5 Member)
“We’re stronger when all sectors of Walmart [workers] come together. Now all we need are some executives on our side.”
– Dominic Ware (Walmart Member)
“Me siento bien motivada. Entre más días van pasando se van uniendo más organizaciones, mas gente de la comunidad que nos esta apoyando y sentimos más fuerza. La gente de la comunidad esta con nosotros porque saben lo que sufrimos en las bodegas. No están apoyando para hacer un cambio para todos los trabajadores, no solo los trabajadores de bodega pero también los campesinos. Yo sé que si vamos a logran un cambio para todos.”
– Marta Medina (Warehouse Worker)
“It’s awesome that we’re united even though we’re from different areas. Actions like these make us one.”
– David Garcia (Warehouse Worker)
WalMarch Dispatch: Day 6
Hundreds of warehouse workers and their supporters marched their final steps through downtown LA after walking 50 miles from the Inland Empire for safe jobs.
Hundreds more community members, clergy, elected officials and the band Las Cafeteras greeted the weary marchers on the West Steps of City Hall and held rally and press conference.
The “WalMarch,” a 50-mile, 6-day pilgrimage of warehouse workers, is drawing national attention on deplorable working conditions inside Southern California warehouses that serve major retailers including Walmart. Workers are asking for basic yet critical improvements on the job: fans to combat the 100 degree heat, functioning equipment, clean water, regular breaks, and an end to inhumane work quotas and retaliation for speaking up about safety conditions.
Voices From the March
“I believe all workers deserve fair wages and good working conditions. It is so important to bring good jobs into our community. This march is bringing that awareness to our community.”
– Valeria Lizarraga (Coalition for Economic Surv)
“These are workers that, like many people in our society, don’t have the rights that many of us in older unionized industries have. That’s why I’m out here to support them.”
– Lenny Potash (AFSCME Member)
“Occupy LA has been supporting the warehouse workers all year. Walmart represents the globalized economy of the 1 percent. We want to rebuild the economy so everyone can have good jobs, including the warehouse workers. Walmart represents a race to the bottom. Occupy is about justice and we think together people can achieve that.”
– Michael Novick (Occupy LA)
“The warehouse workers’ action is an inspiration to workers around the world. They’re standing up to the biggest private employer in the world.”
– Joann Lo (Food Chain Workers Alliance)
Trabajadores de bodega, acompañados por trabajadores de Walmart y lideres comunitarios, intentan hablar con Walmart sobre condiciones de trabajo ilegales
Seis días después de comenzar una huelga, y el lanzamiento de una peregrinación de 50 millas, los trabajadores de bodegas del Sur de California llevaron su llamado por mejorar las malas condiciones de trabajo y un alto a las represalias directamente a la administración de Walmart.
Los trabajadores de bodega, incluyendo los que están en huelga—no son parte de una unión de trabajadores reconocida—se dedican a mover y transportar bienes y mercancía de Walmart. Ellos están marchando para exigir mejoramientos básicos pero fundamentales en el trabajo tales como: ventiladores para combatir el calor de 100 grados, herramientas que funcionan adecuadamente, agua potable, y descansos de trabajo regulares. Al igual, están pidiendo un fin a las represalias cometidas por sus empleadores, NFI y Warestaff, una agencia de empleo.
“Soy padre de dos hijas hermosas, y ellas son la razón por la cual trabajo,” le compartió Carlos Martinez, trabajador de la bodega de NFI en Mira Loma, California, a dos representantes de Walmart en frente sus oficinas de Irvine. “En el trabajo, cuando fui maltratado por un supervisor, le pedí ayuda al gerente de supervisores y en vez de llegar a una solución, el resultado fue una represalia en mi contra. Deseamos tener una reunión con Walmart. Queremos que las condiciones de trabajo para los trabajadores de bodega mejoren.”
En su visita a la oficina regional de Walmart en Irvine, los trabajadores de bodega fueron acompañados por trabajadores de las tiendas de Walmart, y lideres comunitarios como Angie Rodriguez, trabajadora de la tienda de Walmart en Baldwin Park, Tefere Gebre, director de la federación de uniones del condado de Orange, Rick Eiden, vice president de UFCW Local 324, y Kimberly Claytor, presidente de la federación de Maestras/os de Newport-Mesa.
“El dolor de los trabajadores de bodega es nuestro dolor,” dijo Angie Rodriguez. “Su lucha es nuestra lucha. Hemos visto cambios negativos y la falta de apoyo en el trabajo. Estamos aprendiendo más sobre lo que está pasando con los trabajadores de bodega. Ahora, más que nunca, es tiempo para un cambio positivo en Walmart”.
Los trabajadores también entregaron a los representantes de Walmart una carta firmada por casi 40 mil simpatizantes de los trabajadores apoyando la huelga en contra de prácticas laborales injustas de NFI y Warestaff. Pero a pesar del intento, los representantes no pudieron prometer llevar acabo una reunión entre los ejecutivos de Walmart y los trabajadores de bodega.