A growing number of major media outlets are reporting about health and safety violations and poor working conditions at the Southern California warehouses that are the backbone of Walmart’s worldwide supply chain.
According to The New York Times, the dire workplace conditions are not only hurting warehouse employees but are also having widespread economic impact throughout the state. Experts cite Walmart as responsible for driving down wages and labor standards across an industry that is primarily a Latino workforce.
“There seems to be an unfortunate model of subcontracting used to cut costs and really depress the working conditions,” said Julie Su, California labor commissioner. “It really reflects the economy moving to this kind of day-labor system in a way that really can destabilize the economy.”
Through a complex web of contractors and subcontractors, Walmart tries to deny responsibility for warehouses that move its merchandise, but the corporate behemoth dictates the working conditions in these facilities by setting unreasonable quotas and pushing for relentless cost cutting measures at the expense of workers’ health and safety.
“There’s nobody who cares about our health — there’s just pressure to empty cases at a fast pace,” said warehouse worker Limber Herrera told the Times. “All the dust we inhale, all the heavy things we have to lift with all our strength and no support, it’s very hard.”
The Guardian went into even more detail about “abject working conditions.” Reports of black dust that cause nosebleeds, headaches, and nausea in addition to a litany of other hazards reported at warehouses serving Walmart. Workers report back injuries, 125 degree heat, lack of water and broken equipment. Workers have also reported denial of medical attention and threats of dismissal for missing work if injured.
“It is an impossibility,” said warehouse worker Ruben Valadez. “But they tell you to work harder. The shout at you and harass you. They say: ‘If you can’t take it, then you know where the door is.’”