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Walmart warehouse workers charge wage theft

Workers at a huge Walmart warehouse south of Joliet are charging their subcontractor with wage theft.

Joined by supporters and attorneys, they’ll announce the filing of a class-action lawsuit against warehouse contractors at an event outside Chicago’s Walmart, 4650 W. North, tomorrow (Thursday, December 10) at 11:30 a.m.

The lawsuit, filed by the Working Hands Legal Clinic under the Day Laborer Services Act, targets Select Remedy, the staffing agency at the warehouse, and Schneider Logistics, which manages the facility, located in Elwood, Illinois.

The class action would cover about 300 workers at the Walmart warehouse and thousands of additional Select Remedies employees in the Chicago area, an organizer said.

The lawsuit charges that Select Remedies split workers’ paychecks in order to evade overtime laws and that warehouse workers have not been paid in full for hours worked.

Workers say Walmart, which owns the warehouse and whose products are shipped there, is ultimately reponsible.

“We hold Wal-Mart responsible for what has happened to us,” said Ruben Bautista, a plaintiff in the suit. “They control what happens in their warehouse.”

Said Bautista:  “Wal-Mart is the richest company in the world, but the people who distribute their products are treated like slaves.”

The Walmart warehouse workers are supported by Warehouse Workers for Justice, a new workers center founded by United Electrical Workers and the Chicago Workers Collaborative.  Workers centers mobilize community support to win protection from exploitation for vulnerable workforces, including immigrants and temporary workers (see Newstips 7-13-05).

“We’ve been getting calls for years from warehouse workers, especially in the southwest suburban area,” said Mark Meinster of UE.   The warehouse workers center began conducting workers rights workshops in churches around Joliet last summer, and that’s where Walmart warehouse workers approached them, he said.

With train lines converging here as well as the third largest container port in the world, Chicago is a major center of the increasingly global distribution and supply chain.  And with hundreds of new distribution centers opening along I-55 (with an estimated half billion square feet of warehouse space), Chicago has one of the biggest concentrations of warehouse workers in the world, Meinster said.

“The problem is, 70 percent of the workers are temps,” he said.  They work for the minimum wage or little more, they have no health care, no sick pay or holidays, very little job security — and often little recourse to abuses on the job.

Often arrangements with contrators and subcontractors provide legal insulation for companies operating warehouses – though Meinster points out that the Day Labor Services Act allows workers to sue client companies.

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Category: labor, wage theft, Wal-Mart


2 Responses

  1. Thanks for this information. All of what u said is tru. I lost my job because I was complaining about them not paying me correctly. Wow! I wish I would have known that I could fight them for my pay. Once again thanks!

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