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.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.
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.
(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.