Home Depot warehouse is different
February 11, 2012 6:00PM
Area Home Depot stores will get items from a new distribution warehouse in Joliet, which opened in 2012. | Sun-Times Media file photo
Updated: March 13, 2012 10:30AM
My ears perked up when I heard that the big Home Depot Warehouse that opened in Joliet earlier this month actually employs its own workers.
Could this be an example of a “good” warehouse that treats employees fairly, I wondered? After a couple of years of covering warehouse industry lawsuits and employee complaints, I hoped it was true.
Home Depot, it seems, isn’t using the third party logistics model used by other big companies in the area.
Third party logistics (3PL) refers to a system where a large company hires a second company to manage its warehouse, and the second company hires a third company (or companies) to staff it.
But that’s not happening at Home Depot. The company wouldn’t release specific wage details, but a spokeswoman did say that the company offers a comprehensive benefits package to associates.
That pleases people like Joliet Mayor Tom Giarrante. “We want jobs, and we want good jobs,” he said.
Employees at the Feb. 2 Home Depot warehouse ribbon cutting at CenterPoint intermodal in Joliet seemed to be happy to be on board with the company, he added.
“They were gung ho; they really were,” he said.
John Greuling, CEO and president of the Will County Center for Economic Development, agreed that a company that employs its own people may be a better way to go from a “community standpoint.”
Unfortunately, that may not work for some companies that want to keep transportation costs as low as possible, and employing temps may be one way to do that, he explained.
However, the 3PL system has led to trouble here and in California because employees are kept as permanent “temp” workers and never have a chance to become full-time staffers or receive benefits.
An employee rights group, Warehouse Workers for Justice, evolved in Will County to tackle what they say is a pattern of abuses. In a couple of instances, workers have complained about not being paid overtime or being paid per load instead of per hour (which means in some cases they make less than minimum wage).
Then the workers were laid off, but the companies involved said the contract with the temp agency simply expired.
Companies that use second and third layers of vendors say they expect their vendors to uphold the law. But are they? In California, labor officials levied some hefty fines for worker pay infractions. But Illinois hasn’t taken any action here so far.
Greuling believes there are some employment agencies “working outside the lines.” The CED has formed a new global logistics committee to look into the issue this year, he promised.
“(We’ll) at least take a deeper look under the covers and find out how widespread the challenges are for the workers and the distribution centers,” he said.