Sep 30, 2012
Ten busloads from Chicago will join hundreds of Joliet-area supporters – including clergy who will block an access road and face arrest – to rally Monday for Walmart warehouse workers whose strike is now in its third week.
Buses leave Chicago at 12 noon from the Workers United hall, 333 S. Ashland. A rally in a public park on Deer Run in Elwood, Illinois, across from Walmart’s distribution center at 26453 Centerpoint Drive, starts at 2 p.m., with a march and civil disobedience to follow.
The action will “bring out of the shadows” some of the abuses taking place in Will County’s vast warehouse district, the third largest container port in the world and the largest in the Western Hemisphere, which supplies virtually all major retailers, said Leah Fried of Warehouse Workers for Justice.
Warehouse workers walked out on September 15 when several workers were fired by Roadlink Workforce Solutions, a Walmart subcontractor, after they tried to present demands for improved conditions to management. One of the fired workers was also a plaintiff in a wage theft lawsuit filed against Roadlink days earlier that week.
The strikers belong to the Warehouse Workers Organizing Committee, which is part of Warehouse Workers for Justice.
WWOC filed an unfair labor practices complaint with the National Labor Relations Board alleging retaliation for legally-protected activity. The complaint includes the charge that a supervisor drove a forklift into a group of workers seeking to discuss conditions with management, Fried said.
In an unfair labor practices strike, strikers are protected from being fired or disciplined for taking part in the action.
WWOC has presented its demands to Roadlink, one of many subcontractors at Walmart’s huge distribution center, focusing on rescinding the firings and ensuring workers won’t be punished for presenting complaints to management, Fried said. Other issues include full payment of wages owed, unsafe working conditions, and schedules that don’t specify when shifts end, she said.
On Friday, Walmart warehouse workers in Southern California returned to work after a 15-day strike after winning safety improvements, according to West Coast-based Warehouse Workers United. Earlier this year OSHA fined a Walmart subcontractor there for over 60 violations.
After the West Coast walkout, Walmart said it is instituting third-party inspections of its warehouses and considering adding specific health and safety requirements to agreements with contractors.
Warehouse workers here have called on Walmart to take responsibility for conditions in its warehouses, including poverty-level “permatemp” jobs and “an epidemic of wage theft.”