Pitzer College Media Studies students produced a video this fall about the struggle that workers at the NFI warehouses in Chino, California have undertaken to improve health and safety conditions at their warehouses. These giant warehouses move goods for Walmart, Kmart and other major corporations. In the video, the workers speak for themselves about the struggle for decent conditions at a warehouse where everybody is employed through a staffing agency. They tell us about why they fight and what this struggle means to them. In this time of the holidays, it is crucial that we think of the workers who are sacrificing by working in dangerous conditions to take care of their families, and supply goods to all of us.
Warehouse Workers Call on Retailer to Take Responsibility for Working Conditions Within Its Supply Chain
Workers are calling on Walmart to adopt a Responsible Contractor Policy to ensure that its contractors live up to the letter and the spirit of Walmart’s Statement of Ethics. This complaint is the second attempt to raise these issues with Walmart’s home office. The first attempt, a written letter from Warehouse Workers United to CEO Mike Duke dated October 25, 2011, was answered with a “Dear Customer” letter.
The Movement to End Wage Theft
In the report: “A Fair Day’s Pay: The Movement to End Wage Theft”, Nik Theodore, an Associate Professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, examines over a dozen organizations that utilize innovative tactics to combat this illegal practice. Commissioned by the Discount Foundation, the report reviews a variety of local, state and federal strategies driven by grantee organizations to address violations of employment laws.
Workers around the nation will benefit from a recent National Labor Relations Board ruling requiring companies to post workers’ rights, but workers at NFI Industries in the Inland Empire of Southern California, a major logistics subcontractor for Walmart and other retailers, face retaliation for practicing their right to organize around health and safety violations.
Chino, CA. – On Aug. 24, NFI Industries fired the complainant of a Cal/OSHA filing that outlined severe workplace abuses and is targeting other warehouse workers with veiled threats of calls to immigration, job loss, assignment changes and employers telling workers to ostracize leaders.
“I was fired moments after speaking out at a rally urging NFI Industries to correct workplace abuses,” said Santos Castaneda, a 24-year old Salvadoran man who has worked for the firm for three years. “I was fired because I left flyers promoting a safe workplace in the break room.” Castaneda is available for interviews in English and Spanish.
Reports of retaliation at NFI Industries comes as the National Labor Relations Board issued a ruling requiring employers to notify workers of their labor rights and their right to act together to improve working conditions and join a union.
NFI Industries was found to be one of the worst offenders of health and safety violations during a federally-funded survey that interviewed 100 Inland Empire warehouse workers. The survey was conducted in conjunction with UCLA and Warehouse Workers United.
Workers interviewed experienced dismembered limbs, back injuries and repetitive stress syndrome from machinery, chronic headaches and nosebleeds from chemical exposure and extreme temperatures as high as 125 degrees.
Castaneda is among three workers who filed complaints with Cal/OSHA on July 26, 2011 and is the first to be fired. The Cal/OSHA complaints outlined the following abuses:
- Failure to provide industrial truck operator training
- Exposure to dust, fumes, chemical vapors and gasses
- Working in poorly lit conditions or sometimes in the dark
- Lack of hand protection when handling equipment that presents dangers including punctures, cuts and burns
“I’m speaking out because I want the conditions to improve for workers who come after me,” said Marta Medina, an NFI warehouse worker for 5 years and another complainant on the Cal/OSHA filing. “I’m scared I will lose my job, but I can’t stay silent.”
NFI Industries moves merchandise for national retailers including Wal-Mart, Sears, Home Depot and Kohl’s and employs warehouse workers through the staffing agency, Tristate, which is housed on the premises of NFI Industries in Chino, CA.
Shattered Dreams and Broken Bodies: A Brief History of the Inland Empire Warehouse Industry
June 30, 2011
By Warehouse Workers United and Deogracia Cornelio, UCLA Labor Occupational Safety and Health Program. Introduction by Juan de Lara, Ph.D., Dept. of American Studies and Ethnicity
University of Southern California
Download the report HERE