Workers, Leaders Call on Walmart to Take Responsibility for Warehouse Working Conditions, Workers in Chicago file federal lawsuit

ONTARIO, Calif. – With the support of community, clergy and elected leaders including Asm. Norma Torres, warehouse workers launched the WalMarch, a 50-mile, 6-day pilgrimage from Southern California’s Inland Empire to Downtown Los Angeles.

Workers and their supporters are calling on Walmart to take responsibility for working conditions in its Inland Empire warehouses. As the largest retailer in the world, Walmart effectively dictates the standards of operation in the logistics and distribution industry, which impacts the lives of 85,000 warehouse workers in Southern California.

“Walmart must take responsibility for all its contracted warehouses,” said Guadalupe Palma, a campaign director for Warehouse Workers United, an organization that advocates for warehouse workers. “These workers have exhausted all options. They are walking out of the shadows in Riverside, gaining support and demanding that Walmart stop ignoring deplorable working conditions that affect its contracted workforce.

“Walmart has the power to improve the lives of tens of thousands of working families in the Inland Empire if it upholds its own stated “Standards for Suppliers” and eliminates inhumane and illegal working conditions,” Palma said.

Wednesday, after several appeals to Walmart and its contractors to ameliorate retaliation and poor working conditions in a Mira Loma warehouse, a group of warehouse workers went on strike to protest unfair labor practices they have faced on the job.

"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 workers—who do not have a recognized union—walked off the job at a warehouse that is devoted to Walmart products  to call for an end to retaliation and unfair labor practices committed by their employers, NFI and Warestaff, a staffing agency.

Thursday in Chicago, warehouse workers filed a federal lawsuit to stop subcontracted staffing agencies from violating workers’ rights. This is the sixth lawsuit filed since 2009 against Walmart contractors in Elwood, Illinois for wage theft and other abuses

Striking warehouse workers will join other warehouse workers, members of the clergy, farm workers and other supporters in the 50-mile march to Los Angeles. They will be drawing attention to working conditions that include: inadequate access to clean water, scorching heat that reaches well over 100 degrees, and little access to basic healthcare, no regular breaks for heat, and a lack of properly functioning equipment. Their wages are low –$8 per hour and $250 a week, or $12,000 per year. Workplace injury is common.

“The UFW just celebrated five decades of struggle to improve the working conditions of some of the poorest workers in the nation. We are happy to see that the farm worker struggle has served as an inspiration for our brothers and sisters who work in the warehouses,” said UFW President Arturo Rodriguez said.

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 like Walmart. The National Labor Relations Board is currently investigating numerous federal charges filed by the warehouse workers.

Warehouse workers are working with Walmart retail associates in OUR Walmart, who are  leading their own campaign to make improvements for workers in their stores. Both WWU and OUR Walmart are a part of national coalition with allies called Making Change at Walmart.

Warehouse workers will embark on their 50-mile march Sept. 13. They will sleep on church floors and rely on community organizations for support and meals. Marchers will be joined daily by supporters and elected officials. Workers will hold daily media events and will be available for interviews in English and Spanish throughout the entire march.

Follow the march on social media using the hashtag #WalMarch

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