Walmart warehouse workers continue their fight
By Cindy Wojdyla Cain firstname.lastname@example.org September 17, 2012 2:00PM
Updated: November 19, 2012 2:28PM
Workers from the Walmart warehouse in Elwood took their fight for better working conditions to the company’s Rosemont regional headquarters on Monday.
A petition with about 40,000 signatures was delivered to the office by representatives of Warehouse Workers for Justice, a Joliet-based workers’ rights group. Also present were members of a group that walked off their Walmart warehouse job on Saturday after employees said they suffered retaliation for a federal lawsuit filed on Thursday.
The lawsuit was against Roadlink Workforce Solutions for alleged wage theft. Several employees who approached Roadlink managers on Saturday to present a list of complaints were fired on the spot, said Leah Fried, a spokeswoman for Warehouse Workers for Justice.
After the dismissals a total of about 30 nonunion workers walked off the job and began picketing in front of the 3.4 million-square-foot warehouse at 26453 Center Point Drive, she said. Four more workers joined the strikers on Sunday, Fried said.
“The idea here is Walmart takes notice and starts dealing with the abuses of the contractors,” she said.
Roadlink was hired by Schneider National and Schneider was hired by Walmart in a third-party logistics system that workers complain is unfair because the tertiary companies come and go and no one ever fixes workplace problems.
Roadlink had no comment on the lawsuit on Friday.
Schneider National spokeswoman Janet Bonkowski said the company is committed to continuous improvement of service to customers and employees, and it requires third-party vendors to comply with the law.
Walmart spokesman Dan Fogelman said the company has no relationship with Roadlink, but the company holds all service providers “to the highest standards” and expects them to comply with the law.
Workers have filed six lawsuits against companies hired by Walmart to staff or operate its warehouse.
Workers have complained that the companies hired by Walmart aren’t paying workers minimum wage or overtime in some cases; employees don’t always have access to cold water; equipment, including carts used to move goods, isn’t repaired when broken; and workers have to lift heavy items onto their heads because the boxes are packed too tightly in cargo containers.
“What’s clear is that there have been multiple temp agencies and multiple contractors, but the problems are the common thread,” Fried said. “Really, ultimately, Walmart is responsible. We fell really strongly that that’s the case.”
The petitions signatures presented Monday in Rosemont came from a similar protest and strike by Walmart Warehouse workers in California. About three dozen workers walked off their jobs in Mira Loma last week and the group, led by representatives of workers’ rights group Warehouse Workers United, began a 50-mile “WalMarch” on Thursday to protest working conditions.