Walmart warehouse employees strike in Illinois
September 19, 2012
A strike among warehouse workers in Southern California has spread to northeastern Illinois, where a group of workers at a distribution center for Walmart goods walked off the job over the weekend.
The walkout by roughly 30 employees of a labor agency in Elwood, Ill., near Joliet, mirrors another strike, begun last week, by another group of 30 warehouse workers in Mira Loma, Calif. Both the Illinois and California facilities handle products headed to Walmart stores throughout the country, although none of the workers in question are directly employed by the retail giant.
The individuals in California went on strike over what they described as unsafe working conditions at the warehouse, while those in Illinois walked out claiming that supervisors had retaliated against them after they brought a list of grievances to management.
Phillip Bailey, a worker at the Elwood warehouse, told The Huffington Post that he and some 30 colleagues on Saturday brought a petition to their employer, the logistics company RoadLink, demanding a living wage and regular hours. (Bailey and three other workers had filed a lawsuit against RoadLink two days earlier.) According to Bailey, the supervisors told the group of workers they were temporarily suspended, and the workers then went on strike.
"They retaliated against us for delivering the petition," said Bailey, who earns $10 an hour loading and unloading boxes. "People are sick of taking it — the constant speed-ups, never knowing when you’ll go home from work. … My major complaint is we don’t know when we’re going to leave."
A spokesman for RoadLink did not respond to a request for comment on the allegations.
The Illinois workers, most of whom live in the Joliet area, announced their strike on Saturday in Chicago at a rally in support of the Chicago Teachers Union, whosemembers gained national attention with a strike launched more than a week ago amid contract negotiations with the city. The warehouse workers are not represented by a union, although many of them are affiliated with a labor group, Warehouse Workers for Justice, that has union backing.
The Illinois workers share many of the same complaints as their counterparts in California: They contend that they work in dangerously hot shipping containers and that they have to use broken and unsafe equipment, according to Leah Fried, a spokeswoman for Warehouse Workers for Justice. Many of them are temporary employees earning close to the minimum wage without regular schedules, she said.
"They’re really frustrated. Any time they speak out, there’s retaliation," Fried said. According to Fried, many of the workers on strike labor in a section of the warehouse responsible for affixing shipping labels to boxes.