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Man talking to reporters with text 100+ degree heat, threats, broken bodies. We move Walmart goods and we won't be silenced.
Warehouse workers in California filed a complaint with the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) against a warehouse that moves goods exclusively for Walmart. The warehouse is operated by one Walmart contractor and workers are hired by two staffing agencies.
In the complaint, workers describe a workplace rife with unsafe conditions including limited or no access to clean water, high temperatures, broken equipment, and unreasonable and unsafe quotas. They are charged for required safety equipment. Workers are often blocked inside the trailers they are loading for up to 30 minutes with no exit.

The complaint alleges that workers who are injured on the job are denied access to medical care or compensated time for recovery, and are often told that they will be laid off if they can’t work while injured, all in violation of California law. Workers also report a thick black dust that covers the floor of trailers and containers; they believe inhaling the dust leads to nosebleeds, vomiting and coughing blood.

Walmart typically evades responsibility for violations like these by pointing out that it does not directly operate the worst warehouses. But if everything that goes through the warehouse is headed to Walmart or Sam's Club, the retail giant can be seen to exert significant control over warehouse operations and practices. Abuses such as those alleged in this complaint are common throughout Walmart's global supply chain, and it's important to simultaneously crack down on specific instances of abuse and point out that these are not isolated instances but are tied together through Walmart.

(Continue reading about New York cable workers unionizing, "freedom to work" in Indianapolis, and much more below the fold.)

A fair day's wage

  • The New York cable industry continues unionizing. Friday, 69 workers at Brooklyn Cablevision contractor Falcon Data Com joined the Communications Workers of America by a 53 to 5 vote. According to a press release,
    The Falcon workers’ move to join the union comes just over a month after 60 workers went on strike after management illegally fired two workers for handing out union cards.  The strike, which virtually all the workers honored and joined, started around 6:45 in the morning and ended successfully the same morning with management rehiring the two technicians.
    In January, 282 Cablevision workers voted to join the CWA, and Falcon workers in the Bronx will be voting next week.
  • Wow. The good news is that 37 workers are getting $31,000 in back pay. But the way it happened is another good demonstration of how going through layers of subcontractors helps companies avoid responsibility and lower wages. A subcontractor for a Massachusetts construction company working on a Boston Marriott was using labor from a Philadelphia church ministry helping people recover from substance abuse problems. In this case, that "help" involved working on the Marriott for $4 an hour, well under the minimum wage.
  • With foreign auto manufacturers increasingly locating plants in the anti-union south, the UAW needs to find a way to organize some of those workers if it's to have a strong future. The union is currently focusing efforts on a Nissan plant in Mississippi. What are workers saying about why they want a union?
    As for Carter's wages, they're good, but he hasn't had a raise in years—he feels he's "topped out" at $23 an hour—and there's little or no chance for promotion.

    Meanwhile, the line speed has increased on the shop floor, with production requirements going up even at times when the work week is cut back. "We asked, why did it go up if we cut back to four days? They didn't really give us an answer," he says.

  • Temp jobs are the future, and they're big business:
    With 600 offices and a workforce of 400,000—more employees than Target or Home Depot—Labor Ready is the undisputed king of the blue-collar temp industry. Specializing in "tough-to-fill, high-turnover positions," the company dispatches people to dig ditches, demolish buildings, remove debris, stock giant fulfillment warehouses—jobs that take their toll on a body. And business is booming. Labor Ready's parent company, TrueBlue, saw its profits soar 55 percent last year, to $31 million, on $1.3 billion in sales. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that "employment services," which includes temporary labor, will remain among the fastest growing sectors through 2020.
  • San Francisco court workers held a one-day strike Monday, objecting to pay cuts and heavier work loads while, they say, administrators have millions in slush funds.
  • Workers who were suspended by the Tropicana casino in Atlantic City after engaging in civil disobedience on their own time are back at work.
  • Are lunch breaks the new vision of utopia?

State and local legislation

  • The Indianapolis city council passed a "freedom to work" measure barring hotels from blacklisting workers who are work for contractors supplying the hotels with low-wage temporary labor. Workers say they've been told by hotels that they aren't eligible for better-paying, permanent jobs due to an agreement the hotels have made with contractors. Now they're urging Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard to sign the bill.
  • For the past 16 years, seasonal school workers in Georgia have been allowed to collect unemployment insurance benefits during the summer. Now, the state is changing that. Workers are fighting back with a Justice for School Workers campaign.
  • New York City is expanding its Helmets to Hardhats program.


Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Sat Jul 21, 2012 at 10:55 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Wal*Mart Free Since 1990 (10+ / 0-)

    Don't go to Wal*Mart. It's the best way to denounce their existence.

    The Egyptian military has a country; the American corporations have a country.

    by Village expects idiot home soon on Sat Jul 21, 2012 at 11:08:10 AM PDT

    •  When I pass where the Walmart is... (0+ / 0-)

      on Touhy in Niles, IL, all I see is grey air. I see no store, no carts, no cars, and no people.

      I think that behind the fog is a Twilight Zone episode going on:

      Meh. Romney.

      Ugh. --UB.

      "Daddy, every time a bell rings, a Libertaria­n picks up his Pan Am tickets for the Libertaria­n Paradise of East Somalia!"

      by unclebucky on Sat Jul 21, 2012 at 11:36:53 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Workplace safety and fairness are gone. (8+ / 0-)

    The weakening of unions and the increasing strength of capital have done a number of employee rights in recent decades, even at the white collar level.

    I used to work in a research hub in NYC whose management would routinely underpay or not pay, would require 16-20 hours days unpaid with no overtime, did not provide health insurance, and rented an office that was unsafe and violated a number of OSHA regs.

    Individual employees that complained, even a little, were canned.

    Eventually all employees at the New York office banded together and went to the regs. What happened?

    Each office in this "family" of interacting companies based in Europe were separate companies with similar names. They simply fired everyone immediately, shuttered the office, and the company that was the N.Y. office, closing the investigation.

    They opened a new company and a new office in Boston weeks later and proceeded to pick up where they left off.

    I hope these workers do better, but somehow I can imagine Wal-Mart simply dropping the contract, saying they had "no knowledge" of what was going on and picking up a new contract with a "new company" within a year that somehow has many ties to the old company which, after having lost its contract, simply shut its doors and fired everyone.

    -9.63, 0.00
    I am not a purity troll. I am a purity warrior.

    by nobody at all on Sat Jul 21, 2012 at 11:08:12 AM PDT

  •  Temp agencies offer no benefits and employees (5+ / 0-)

    are often paid less than others who may do the same job and are paid by the company.  

    This has been a growing trend for the past decade and now it is at an all time high. People are getting temp jobs but there are no guarantees how long the job will last and certainly no benefits.  

    As a friend of mine said...

    I was desperate and went to a temp agency. I did get a job that lasted a few weeks, then no work for several weeks, then another short term job. It looks like this will be my life, taking whatever jobs the Temp Agency offers with no chances of raises, no benefits, and no chance of a company deciding to keep me on and pay my salary.

    Follow PA Keystone Liberals on Twitter: @KeystoneLibs

    by wishingwell on Sat Jul 21, 2012 at 11:09:01 AM PDT

  •  Sweatshop USA. (6+ / 0-)

    How do they get away with this in the USA?

    In the complaint, workers describe a workplace rife with unsafe conditions including limited or no access to clean water, high temperatures, broken equipment, and unreasonable and unsafe quotas. They are charged for required safety equipment. Workers are often blocked inside the trailers they are loading for up to 30 minutes with no exit.

    The complaint alleges that workers who are injured on the job are denied access to medical care or compensated time for recovery, and are often told that they will be laid off if they can’t work while injured, all in violation of California law. Workers also report a thick black dust that covers the floor of trailers and containers; they believe inhaling the dust leads to nosebleeds, vomiting and coughing blood.

  •  I've done no recent in-depth Google (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    searches, but, generally, I don't think WalMart is doing too well. Falling stock prices, increasing community opposition to their expansion, and then these pesky little suits all the time, by uppity pee-ons.

    The hits just keep coming.

    It's here they got the range/ and the machinery for change/ and it's here they got the spiritual thirst. --Leonard Cohen

    by karmsy on Sat Jul 21, 2012 at 11:11:09 AM PDT

  •  As mentioned by other posters, this (5+ / 0-)

    seems to be a common way to do business now...subcontracting out these services then claiming no knowledge of what goes on.  My son, while unemployed, got a job at Rite Aid's warehouse, but it wasn't working for Rite Aid, it was for a sub.  Low pay, lousy hours, no benefits, but why should they care?  They fire you after a few months, before you would receive any kind of raise, and have 30 bodies ready to take your place.

    Yep, this is why the unions need to be weakened, because the American worker is treated so well!  sigh

  •  2013 and the republicans win (4+ / 0-)

    Catch your eye?  hahaha

    Just think about how far down our workers will be kept if the republicans were to actually win the presidency and take back the Senate.  If that happens, it will probably mean that more and more states will have more and more republican legislatures and other offices...even up to governorships.  

    I think we've seen what happens to workers when republicans get in power this past couple of years.

    Can't be good.  

    The truth is sometimes very inconvenient.

    by commonsensically on Sat Jul 21, 2012 at 11:20:21 AM PDT

  •  China's "economy" is growing (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Obviously, for the good of the country - We need to be more like China.

    Sharpening my pitchfork between keystrokes.

    I want a living planet, not just a living room.

    by Anthony Page aka SecondComing on Sat Jul 21, 2012 at 11:48:40 AM PDT

  •  "Staffing Services" are a vile creation (4+ / 0-)

    People are nothing but disposable meat robots to those companies.

    Wall Street loves 'em. Go figure.

    I want a living planet, not just a living room.

    by Anthony Page aka SecondComing on Sat Jul 21, 2012 at 11:50:46 AM PDT

  •  Subcontracting and outsourcing, a strategy (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Loozerio, Bernie68, OldDragon, ceebee7

    to shed responsibility by corporations.      Until Democrats grow a set and pass Employee Free Choice Act  over the heads of Wall St, US Chamber of Commerce and Bernie Marcus this will only get worse.  

    America is turning into a sweatshop,   because of the neutralization of organized labor and implementation of trade policies that put the USA at a disadvantage.    Both Parties failed to do their job defending our economy,  and our good jobs.  Both Parties had a part in making China a growing economy at US expense.      

    The biggest threat to the USA comes not from foreign terrorists , but from the Wall St financial terrorists who will never squeeze enough from labor to become rich enough.    Corporatism,  and the pervasive growing acceptance of a culture of corruption and cronyism is another harmful factor.     We must hold those who are corrupt accountable regardless of their politics or wealth.    Corruption should never receive an "it depends" pass.  

    Labor unions must work harder from the top down to be seen as assets to the community,  and improve their public image.   The corporatist propaganda of thuggery that their pundits use needs neutralized.

    Victims of bigotry are the poorest, least influential members of society.......never the wealthiest, most educated, most overrepresented in high levels, and most influential. Bigotry hurts the least influential. To claim or say otherwise is absurd.

    by dailykozzer on Sat Jul 21, 2012 at 11:51:47 AM PDT

  •  Yea!!! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    "workers describe a workplace rife with unsafe conditions including limited or no access to clean water, high temperatures, broken equipment, and unreasonable and unsafe quotas. They are charged for required safety equipment. Workers are often blocked inside the trailers they are loading for up to 30 minutes with no exit."
    The future is now!
    So remember kids!
    Vote Republican!

    “Civilized men are more discourteous than savages because they know they can be impolite without having their skulls split, as a general thing.” Conan of Cimmeria via Robert E. Howard

    by roninkai on Sat Jul 21, 2012 at 11:52:14 AM PDT

  •  Anyone know where I can find a good chart (0+ / 0-)

    showing union density in the US going that includes the most recent data (ideally going back to 1980 or so)?

    Politics is the art of the possible, but that means you have to think about changing what is possible, not that you have to accept it in perpetuity. Notes on a Theory

    by David Kaib on Sat Jul 21, 2012 at 11:54:07 AM PDT

  •  I used to work in an warehouse (8+ / 0-)

    The pay was okay, for the type of work and location, and the benefits were good, too, but the working conditioners were unbearable.

    On your feet for 10 - 14 hours a day 4 - 6 days a week, depending on the time of year.

    In the summer, the warehouse was like an oven. No A/C, just fans, and this was in the desert.

    The quotas or "reasonable expectations" were set by managers who had never done the jobs. The only way to meet them was to ignore every safety rule you were taught during on-boarding.

    The "reasonable expectation" that I was held to was shelving 200 books an hour. That involved opening boxes; take book out of box, do a "six sided check," which means turning the book six ways in your hand; scanning books with a hand-held scanner that weighed about 5 pounds, putting the book on the shelf; scanning the shelf--200 times an hour, 2,000+ times a day. That is 16,000 wrist movements on the loading hand and about 4,000 wrist movements on the scanning hand, every day.

    Each box has an average of about 16 books and you were allowed to put four boxes on your cart. So, you would have to each this goal while making 3 - 4 trips to the stack of boxes. If you were lucky enough to be near the stack, you might only spend about 10 - 15 minutes of each hour getting and opening boxes. Then hustle the other 45 - 50 minutes to hit your quota.

    They claimed to have an amazing safety record, but that was only because they intimidated employees to discourage them from reporting injuries or illnesses. If someone got hurt they would always find a way to blame the injured person. Then they would write them up and fire them and challenge their workman's comp.

    I ended up with severe carpal tunnel. I've had surgery on both hands and still have symptoms. My doctor said I have permanent nerve and muscle damage. I can't get anyone to say it was due to the job.

    I also had to have surgery on both feet due to plantar fasciitis. The surgery made things worse and after that I couldn't stand on my feet for extended periods at all. I ended up having to quit.

    Warehouse work sucks. I was fortunate enough to work for Amazon directly, which meant better pay and benefits. 80% of the workers were temp workers who were paid less and had no benefits.

  •  Exploitation of other human beings is easy (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Mayfly, OldDragon, Dixiedemocrat

    if one is a sociopath. A few pertinent tid-bits from the link...

    6. LACK OF REMORSE OR GUILT -- a lack of feelings or concern for the losses, pain, and suffering of victims; a tendency to be unconcerned, dispassionate, coldhearted, and un empathic. This item is usually demonstrated by a disdain for one's victims.

     7. SHALLOW AFFECT -- emotional poverty or a limited range or depth of feelings; interpersonal coldness in spite of signs of open gregariousness.

     8. CALLOUSNESS and LACK OF EMPATHY -- a lack of feelings toward people in general; cold, contemptuous, inconsiderate, and tactless.

    These fuckers clearly do not care, so they must be made to care through unwavering enforcement of OSHA and labor regulations, as well as labor solidarity.
  •  Walmart dictates terms to its suppliers all the (4+ / 0-)

    time. They dictate size, color, weight, taste, and prices. If you will not accept their terms at first offer then no contract. They could easily dictate better working conditions if they so wished. They are only interested in squeezing as much profit as they can. It is worse than feudalism. It is not capitalistic because it is practically a monopoly. I never shop there and never will. Every time I have had the misfortune of being in a Walmart it has made me depressed.

  •  School bus drivers for a Federal (Army) (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    contractor suddenly found out that, after over 14 years of being able to count on Unemployment Insurance during the two-month off period, they would no longer qualify - thanks to an administrative action by the new Republican Labor Commish.  We understand this effects thousands in Georgia, including the despised 'teachers' who work at private schools.  These folks we're (NAACP Labor/Industry Cmt.) working with are pissed and have met twice with a Unite Here  V.P. out of Texas as well as with Jobs with Justice folks out off Atlanta.  We may be seeing the re-birth pangs of a Southern Labor movement.

    I preach the church without Christ, where the lame don't walk, the blind don't see and what's dead stays that way! Hazel Motes in "Wise Blood"

    by chalatenango on Sat Jul 21, 2012 at 12:26:54 PM PDT

  •  Actually DON'T TWEET THAT. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    David Kaib

    The photo says to tweet:

    @Walmart #Warehouse workers won't be silenced anymore #BrokenBodies
    The problem with this tweet is that when you start with an @symbol, Twitter thinks it's a reply or a non-private direct message, so it will not show up in your public feed unless your followers are also following @walmart.

    If you want it to show up publicly to all of your followers, you need to start with a character other than "@".

    If I wanted to read how much Obama sucks, I'd be on RedState, not DailyKos.

    by ThatsNotFunny on Sat Jul 21, 2012 at 08:12:31 PM PDT

  •  As a workers comp professional (0+ / 0-)

    I can tell you without hyperbole that Walmart treats their employees like brute animals, particularly if they have the misfortune of being injured on the job.  They are self-insured out of Bentonville Arkansas.  The warehouse workers I've spoken to in Virginia ARE covered by Walmart workers comp.  the laws vary from state to state but I think we all know that to shop at Walmart is morally reprehensible.

    "The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it." - Flannery O'Conner

    by Dixiedemocrat on Sun Jul 22, 2012 at 06:46:59 AM PDT

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