Warehouse Workers for Justice – Chicago Newstips by Community Media Workshop http://www.newstips.org Chicago Community Stories Mon, 14 Jul 2014 17:31:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.4.12 In Bronzeville: school closings, violence, Wal-Mart, and TIFs http://www.newstips.org/2013/05/at-overton-school-closings-violence-wal-mart-and-tifs/ Wed, 15 May 2013 00:58:22 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=7199 Two actions protested the closing of Overton Elementary in Bronzeville today — a morning rally highlighting safety issues (and much more), and an afternoon action, which raised larger issues of resources by drawing the connection to a Walmart being built nearby with TIF funds.

About a hundred parents marched from Overton, at 49th and Indiana, to Mollison, at 44th and King  — past four gangs and four drug locations, according to Francis Newman, a parent from Williams Prep, which is also on the school closing list.

The walk also took them past the spot where Columbia College student Kevin Ambrose was shot and killed last week, she noted.

“We’re demanding these schools be kept open and that they get the resources they need,” Newman said.  She said she recently visited Disney Magnet school, which has numerous computers, smart boards, and iPads for children.  “In our school, we can’t get a computer that works,” she said.

The real status-quo

The idea that “schools are under-resourced because they’re underutilized is a lie that is used to validate the status quo,” said Jeanette Taylor, an LSC member at Mollison and a leader with the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization.  “The status quo in Chicago is closing schools.”

Several parents discussed schools that had struggled after repeatedly receiving students from closing schools and are still being subject to school actions.

A hearing officer has recommended keeping Overton open, challenging CPS’s assertion that Mollison is a higher-performing school, which is based on its highly technical system of performance points.

“Closing this school to bring children from Overton to Mollison doesn’t sound like education reform it me, is sounds like sabotage,” Taylor said.

Overton parent Darlene Johnson said she served as a Safe Passage worker at Dyett High School last year.  “A boy walked past us, turned the corner, and was shot,” she said.

She also raised the issue of budget priorities:  “We say no money to McCormick Place for a DePaul arena, no TIF money for Wal-Mart — and why does that rich lady that used to be on the school board need all that TIF money?”  She was referring to Penny Pritzker.

Wal-Mart connections

That was also the theme of an afternoon rally that started at the school and ended at the site of a new Wal-Mart at 47th and King Drive, featuring Wal-Mart workers from OUR Wal-Mart and Warehouse Workers for Justice, along with the Chicago Teachers Union and Chicago Jobs With Justice.

The Walmart development on 47th is being subsidized with $13 million in TIF money, on top of an $11 million TIF subsidy for a new Walmart in Pullman, organizers said.  On top of that, the Walton family foundation gave close to a half-million dollars to finance CPS’s school closing “community engagement”  (including advertising).

Walmart’s owners have also given $22 million to charters in Chicago — their largest investment in charters in the nation — organizers said.

The world’s largest employer — and the nation’s wealthiest family — “can afford to build their own store without our tax dollars,” said Susan Hurley of JWJ.  “That money should be going to our schools.  We could save a lot of schools with $24 million.

“And they need to do a lot better by their workers before they start telling us how to run our schools.”

“Why does Walmart and the Walton Family, who don’t live in Chicago, have more say about our schools than the people who send their children there?” asked Kristine Mayle of CTU.  “It’s because they have the same agenda as the mayor, which is … to privatize them.”

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Walkouts at Wal-Mart http://www.newstips.org/2012/11/walkouts-at-wal-mart/ http://www.newstips.org/2012/11/walkouts-at-wal-mart/#comments Wed, 21 Nov 2012 00:39:51 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=6763 An unprecedent rolling strike wave hitting Wal-Marts across the country – started in September by warehouse workers in northern Illinois and southern California – will include walkouts by employees at a number of Chicago-area Wal-Marts on “Black Friday” this week, organizers say.

Meanwhile organizers working with temporary staffing agency workers charge Wal-Mart is evading the wage commitment it made when it entered Chicago two years ago by using temps to fill positions in its stores here.  Chicago Workers Collaborative is backing staffing workers in Wal-Mart stores who recently filed a wage theft lawsuit against the company.

Wal-Mart employees who will be striking on Friday will speak at rallies on Wednesday, November 21, from 5 to 8 p.m. at two Chicago Wal-Marts, 570 W. Monroe and 3630 N. Broadway.

Backed by labor and community supporters, Wal-Mart associates will walk out at a number of stores in the area on Friday.  Details aren’t available, but media contact information is hereChicago Jobs With Justice is also organizing support

Small one-day strikes started last week at two California Wal-Marts, with workers later walking out at two stores in Dallas and six in Seattle.

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“It’s time for us to speak out,” said Tyrone Robinson, an associate at a Chicago Wal-Mart.  “If we don’t speak out, things are just going to stay the same.”

Robinson is a member of OUR Wal-Mart (Organization United for Respect at Wal-Mart), a nonunion association which has been joined by thousands of Wal-Mart associates in the past year.

“Wal-Mart is the largest retailer in the world,” Robinson said.  “They could afford to give us decent wages and health insurance and better hours.  They just choose not to.”

One major complaint is the company’s practice of cutting associates’ hours.  Robinson says he was working 40-hour weeks when he started at Wal-Mart a year ago, but since then his hours have been “drastically reduced.”

“I was doing fine,” he said.  “I had a 40-hour week and I was able to keep my own apartment.  I was on my way to getting some kind of vehicle.”  He takes public transit and often has to be at work at 3 a.m.

But since since his hours were cut, “I had to move in with my grandmother,” he said.  “Now I have a two-hour commute.”

There are other immediate concerns.  The company is increasing health premiums by as much as 36 percent following another steep increase last year, and has raised the number of hours needed to qualify for health coverage from 24 to 30 a week.

And after opening for the first time on Thanksgiving evening last year, this year they’re moving the opening time two hours earlier, to 8 p.m.  That’s not welcomed by associates who have to be at the store hours earlier, said Marc Goumbri, a local organizer for OUR Wal-Mart.

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A central issue is the charge that Wal-Mart punishes employees who speak out.  That was also an issue in the September strikes by warehouse workers.  Members of Warehouse Workers for Justice here struck for three weeks after a Wal-Mart subcontractor fired a WWJ member who’d filed a wage theft lawsuit.

The warehouse strikers won reinstatement for fired members and full wages for all strikers, said Leah Fried of WWJ.  Delegations travelling to Arkansas for the corporation’s stockholders and “stakeholders” meetings also won a meeting with a Wal-Mart vice president, the first time an official of the corporation has met with a labor organization.

Fried says Wal-Mart acknowledged its responsibility for conditions in its warehouses, including ensuring that its policies permitting freedom of speech and association are followed by subcontractors.  The group is pressing for a follow-up meeting with Roadlink, an employment agency that supplies the Wal-Mart warehouse in Elwood, near Joliet.

But Fried said retaliation continues, leading WWJ to file additional labor board complaints last week. “We’re going to need to continue to wratchet up pressure to hold Wal-Mart accountable,” she said.

WWJ is holding an action in support of Wal-Mart associates Friday at 9 a.m. at the Wal-Mart Supercenter at 2424 W. Jefferson in Joliet.

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Wal-Mart has responded to OUR Wal-Mart’s plans by filing an unfair labor practice complaint, charging the strikes are part of a union organizing drive, and with letters warning employees who are absent for scheduled work time.  (On Tuesday the National Labor Relations Board declined to issue an injunction blocking Friday’s actions.)

In fact, OUR Wal-Mart represents a new approach that recognizes the difficulty of union organizing in the face of Wal-Mart’s vehement anti-union strategies, with labor law providing only weak protections.

As noted here, the NLRB has found Wal-Mart guilty of a range of violations – spying, harassment, intimidation, illegal firings – but minor penalties have had no impact.  According to Human Rights Watch, Wal-Mart ‘has translated its hostility toward union formation into an unabashed, sophisticated and aggressive strategy to derail worker organizing at its U.S. stores that violates workers’ internationally recognized right to freedom of association.”

“We are pro Wal-Mart workers,” said Moises Zevala of Local 881 of UFCW, which supports OUR Wal-Mart.  Previously UFCW has sought to organize Wal-Mart workers; the company closed all its butcher departments nationwide after seven butchers in a Texas Wal-Mart voted to affiliate with UFCW twelve years ago.

“We know our communities are desperate for jobs, and we want Wal-Mart to improve the wages and working conditions to make their jobs worthwhile rather than bringing everybody’s standards down,” Zevala said.

“Because these are poverty wages, all they do is put our neighborhoods deeper in debt; they don’t get them out of poverty,” he said.

He notes that since coming to Chicago in 2010, Wal-Mart has increasingly relied on temporary labor to staff its stores.  “They had an opportunity when they came here to give people good wages, good hours and benefits; instead they have created an even lower tier,” he said.

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Dozens of workers at staffing agencies who are sent to unload trucks and stock shelves overnight at Wal-Mart stores in Chicago have told organizers with the Chicago Workers Collaborative that they’re paid $8.25 an hour, said Leone Jose Bicchieri.

That’s 50 cents less than the $8.75 hourly rate which Wal-Mart promised they’d pay local employees during talks with City Council members who approved a West Side store two years ago, he points out.

CWC, which organizes temporary workers, assisted with a class-action lawsuit filed earlier this month charging Wal-Mart and its subcontractors with violating federal wage and overtime laws by requiring workers to show up early, stay late, work through lunches and breaks, and participate in trainings, all without compensation.

It’s apparently the first wage-theft lawsuit filed by workers in Wal-Mart stores [in Illinois].  A number of such complaints have been filed by Wal-Mart warehouse workers.

(The staffing agency targetted in the lawsuit is Labor Ready, the company that hired Jdimytai Damour, who was trampeled to death when shoppers broke through the door at a Long Island Wal-Mart on Black Friday four years ago.)

The problem is the temporary labor industry as a whole, Bicchieri said, which he described as “a system that’s designed to fail workers and provide maximum profits to client companies.”

For example, since contractors pay workers’ compensation, Wal-Mart managers are less concerned about injuring workers, pushing them to handle heavy loads more quickly, Bicchieri said.  He said CWC has uncovered cases where labor contractors who submitted low bids actually sent less than the agreed-on number of workers for a job, putting greater stress on workers who have to take up the slack.

“It’s exploitation squared,” he said.

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On Tuesday, in yet another Wal-Mart-related action, CWC and OUR Wal-Mart members protested labor abuses, including uncompensated hours, for staffing agency workers at the Phillips-Norelco plant in Roselle, which supplies Wal-Mart with electric shavers.

According to Bicchieri, Wal-Mart charges $189 for Norelco’s Senso-Touch razor, while hundreds of workers who assemble, pack and ship the product get $66 for 10- and 11-hour days at the plant.

“While Norelco asks Walmart shoppers to ‘upgrade their shave,’ we have to shine a light on the downgrades in Norelco’s labor practices.” he said. “This facility has some the worst conditions for workers in our state.”

CWC called on Wal-Mart “to hold its major supplier of electric razors accountable.”

There’s more to come, Goumbri promises: “This is just the beginning.”

 

Related:

Wal-Mart warehouse workers declare victory

Wal-Mart turns 50

Facing death penalty, garment worker addresses Wal-Mart

A Triangle Fire every year

Wal-Mart’s low wages – from Bangladesh to Joliet

Company store: from Pullman to Wal-Mart

Old tricks at Wal-Mart

Tax Day: Where’s Wal-Mart?

Sick days at Wal-Mart

Wal-Mart warehouse workers charge wage theft

Wal-Mart breaks the law

Wal-Mart and workers rights

Illinois leads the nation in Wal-Mart subsidies

 

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Walmart warehouse workers declare victory http://www.newstips.org/2012/10/walmart-warehouse-workers-declare-victory/ http://www.newstips.org/2012/10/walmart-warehouse-workers-declare-victory/#comments Sun, 07 Oct 2012 21:20:59 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=6691 Striking warehouse workers at Walmart’s distribution center near Joliet have won an agreement for an end to retaliation against employees protesting working conditions, and are returning to work with full pay for the three weeks they were out, Warehouse Workers for Justice reports.

“We forced the company to respect our rights,” said striker Ted Ledwa.  “We showed that when workers are united, we can stand up to the biggest corporations in the world and win.”

Members of the Warehouse Workers Organizing Committee walked out September 15 to protest the firing by the Roadlink employment agency of a plaintiff in a new lawsuit  – the sixth filed against Walmart subcontrators in Elwood, Illinois – charging wage theft.  They won widespread support.

Last Monday, strikers and their supporters shut down the Elwood warehouse – Walmart’s largest distribution center on the continent – with hundreds rallying as clergy and community and labor leaders blocked the road.  On Friday, strikers delivered a letter demanding an end to retaliation and improvement of conditions signed by 100,000 supporters to the Walmart store in Presidential Towers.

During the teachers strike, CTU members joined warehouse strikers in a march to the new Walmart in Chatham, noting support by the Walton Family Foundation for anti-union “school reform” groups like Stand For Children.

A new phase of labor challenges to Walmart seems to be unfolding. Last month a group of Walmart warehouse workers struck in Southern California, returning to week last week after their demands were met.  Last week, employees of two Walmart stores in Southern California walked out, again in protest against retaliation.

Noted for its low wages, forcing many workers onto Medicaid and food stamps, Walmart has aggressively fought back unionization attempts for 50 years; at its warehouses, workers say, the company uses subcontractors to insulate itself from responsibility for abuses.

Now, by forming nonunion associations modeled on the workers’ center movement, Walmart workers seem to have found a strategy for advancing their interest and protecting their rights.  In a period when union rights are under wide attack, it’s a development with dramatic potential.

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Walmart warehouse strike, week 3: rally, civil disobedience planned http://www.newstips.org/2012/09/walmart-warehouse-strike-week-3-rally-civil-disobedience-planned/ Sun, 30 Sep 2012 22:53:48 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=6677 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.”

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Walmart warehouse workers strike http://www.newstips.org/2012/09/walmart-warehouse-workers-strike/ http://www.newstips.org/2012/09/walmart-warehouse-workers-strike/#comments Sun, 16 Sep 2012 01:32:56 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=6642 Workers at a Walmart distribution center near Joliet went on strike Saturday to protest what they say is illegal retaliation.

According to a release from Warehouse Workers for Justice, they’re protesting intimidation and retaliation following the filing of a federal lawsuit charging violation of wage laws earlier this week.

On Thursday, workers at Walmart’s huge warehouse complex in Elwood, Illinois, filed suit against Walmart contractor Roadlink Workforce Solutions alleging they hadn’t been paid for all hours worked, hadn’t been paid for overtime, and in some cases were paid less than minimum wage, according to their attorney, Chris Williams of the Workers’ Law Office.

It’s the sixth lawsuit by Walmart warehouse workers in Elwood charging contractors with wage theft, said Leah Fried of WWJ.

Last week workers at Walmart warehouses in California went on strike to protest retaliaton by contractors for organizing activity.

In California, contractors at Walmart warehouses have been fined hundreds of thousands of dollars for violations of workers’ rights, and a federal judge has issued injunctions to protect workers, including an injunction to stop the mass firing of workers who had filed a wage theft lawsuit, according to WWJ.

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Walmart turns 50 http://www.newstips.org/2012/06/walmart-turns-50/ Fri, 29 Jun 2012 22:54:40 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=6403 A coalition of Walmart workers, community groups, and small businesses is throwing a 50th birthday party for the retail giant.

In that spirit, here’s a story from Walmart’s earliest days (related at length here a few years ago): At the time of Walmart’s founding in July 1962, President John Kennedy passed a law extending the minimum wage to retail workers – with a loophole for companies earning less than $250,000.  Sam Walton promptly divided his stores into individual companies so they could be exempt.

On Saturday, community activists will pass out birthday cupcakes outside the Walmart Express at Presidential Towers, and Walmart workers — employees of local stores who are part of the new OUR Walmart group, along with members of Warehouse Workers for Justice — will tell stories of low wages, unaffordable health coverage, and wage theft.

It takes place a 10 a.m. on Saturday, June 30, at 570 W. Monroe.

“The past 50 years have really not been great for our economy, and Walmart’s growth is not unrelated to that,” said Janel Bailey of Chicago Neighborhoods First, a coalition of labor, community groups, and small business.

“Because they’re such a large employer, their model has had an impact throughout the retail industry and throughout the economy,” said Susan Hurley of Chicago Jobs With Justice.  “What they have done to the standard of living of working people has been dramatic and quite harmful.”

With the closing of Walmart departments and stores where employees have voted for union representation, thousands of workers across the country are now coming together in OUR Walmart (it stands for Organization United for Respect at Walmart).  It’s a nonunion association, as is Warehouse Workers for Justice.

And because previous efforts to block Walmart’s entry into Chicago failed – the company is pioneering a smaller format, the Neighborhood Market, allowing it to move into properties already zoned commercial without the public oversight required for big box developments, Hurley points out – local activists are focusing on supporting Walmart workers and “reforming” the company.

Food deserts and food stamps

While the company talked about filling “food deserts,” nearly all its Chicago stores are in affluent areas downtown or on the North Side – and its Walmart Express in Chatham is in an area with a thriving business district.

“The food desert talk was a red herring, part of the p.r. push to get into the city,” said Bailey.

“Food deserts are only part of the story,” she said.  “Areas that lack food access also lack access to good jobs.  Food deserts are also living wage deserts.  The problem is that if you’re not paying a living wage, you’re not really solving the problem of access to food.”

Indeed, half of all Walmart employees qualify for food stamps – not a strong sign that access to food is high on the company’s priorities.  (With Walmart now accepting food stamps, Newstips pointed out a couple years ago, “the money paid by taxpayers to supplement Walmart’s low wages can now be spent at Walmart, contributing even further to the Walton family’s riches.”)

On top of that, it’s estimated that $225 million is spent nationally on free and reduced school lunches for children of Walmart employees.

Meanwhile, in recent years Illinois has led the nation in tax subsidies to Walmart.  That’s in addition to providing Medicaid for many of the company’s employees.

In another 50th anniversary event, Interfaith Worker Justice is holding a prayer vigil on Friday, July 6 at 6:30 p.m. at the Walmart at 3636 N. Broadway.  The group is calling on the company to mark its anniversary by finding ways to “give back for the sake of the neighborhood.”

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Int’l Women’s Day: spotlight on low wages, sexual harassment http://www.newstips.org/2012/03/intl-womens-day-spotlight-on-low-wages-sexual-harassment/ Wed, 07 Mar 2012 23:08:43 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=5989 Two events will highlight the concerns of women workers on International Women’s Day:  a rally at the Chicago Board of Trade highlighting low wages for women janitors paid by the highly profitable and tax-favored CME Group; and a hearing in Joliet focused on retaliation against women warehouse workers complaining of sexual harassment, including a case where a complainant was herself arrested.

Janitors represented by SEIU Local 1 will rally at the Board of Trade on Thursday, March 8 at 3:30 p.m. and march from there to the Willis Tower. Contract negotiations are starting for 13,000 area janitors, including 4,000 at downtown office buildings, whose contract expires April 8.

With annual pay ranging from $24,000 to $31,000, area janitors are classified “very low income” under HUD’s standards, and earn $20,000 or more below the Economic Policy Institute’s estimate of the cost of living for a family of four, according to Nell McNamara of Local 1.

The union is casting the issue as one of income inequality, noting soaring salaries and bonuses for CEOs while Chicago has the third highest poverty rate and the highest racial income disparity of any major U.S. city.

Janitors are calling on wealthy corporations “to do their part,” said McNamara.  “When hard-working people have good jobs with benefits, we’ll begin to restore balance to our economy and vitality to our neighborhoods.”

In December the state passed an income tax break worth $85 million a year to CME after the corporation threatened to leave town.  In 2009, Willis Tower benefited when United Airlines got a $31 million TIF subsidy to move its corporate headquarters into the building.

Arrested for complaining

In Joliet, in response to an increasing number of complaints of sexual harassment by women workers at warehouses in the area, Warehouse Workers for Justice is holding a hearing on Thursday at 7 p.m. at Mt. Carmel Church, 205 E. Jackson.

A panel including a Will County Board commissioner and a Joliet City Council member will hear testimony from warehouse workers and from experts.

WWJ started hearing complaints after taking on the case of a woman working at Partners Warehouse in Elwood.  When she and her mother went to police to file charges of sexual assault against a supervisor, they were arrested and charged with filing a false report, said Mark Meinster of WWJ.  Police have not investigated the woman’s charge, he said.

The woman and her mother were subsequently fired, and they’ve filed a civil case charging retaliation, Meinster said.

Among other warehouse workers expected to testify Thursday are employees at Wal-Mart’s Elwood warehouse, he said.

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Warehouse workers say Wal-Mart has to pay up http://www.newstips.org/2012/02/warehouse-workers-say-wal-mart-has-to-pay-up/ Wed, 15 Feb 2012 21:51:46 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=5663 Workers fired from a Wal-Mart warehouse near Joliet after they filed a lawsuit charging wage theft say the company  has to stop hiding behind subcontractors and take responsibility for correcting legal violations.

Backed by Warehouse Workers for Justice  and joined by community supporters, they’ll deliver a complaint to Wal-Mart representatives at the new Wal-Mart Express store in Presidential Towers tomorrow (Thursday, February 16, 12 noon, Monroe and Jefferson).

In November, workers hired by Eclipse Advantage to staff the Wal-Mart warehouse filed suit charging they were paid below minimum wage and shorted on hours.  On December 29, 65 warehouse workers were informed that Eclipse was being replaced and they were out of a job.

On February 1 they filed a federal class-action lawsuit charging Eclipse had violated the federal WARN Act which requires 60 days notice for a mass layoff.   Their lawyers argue that while they were hired by a temporary agency, they were long-term employees (or “permatemps”). They also amended the original lawsuit, charging that they had been fired in retaliation for complaining about wage theft, in violation of state law.

They’re now filing a formal complaint with Wal-Mart charging that its subcontractor violated the company’s code of conduct for suppliers and demanding that workers be hired back and paid the wages they’re owed.

Corrective actions

Earlier, Wal-Mart seemed to suggest that Eclipse was replaced in response to workers’  allegations.

“We hold all of our vendors to high standards, and our expectation is they comply with all applicable laws,” spokesperson Greg Rossiter told WBEZ. “Our vendors, such as Schneider, may take whatever corrective actions may be necessary.”  Schneider manages Wal-Mart’s warehouse and contracted with Eclipse for personnel services.

Warehouse workers aren’t buying that.

“Somebody has to pay these workers the money they are owed,” said Mark Meinster of WWJ.  “If the firing was retaliatory, Wal-Mart has to correct the situation. Just putting these people out on the street is not a solution.”

Schneider manages other Wal-Mart warehouses, and in January a federal judge blocked the firing of 100 workers who had complained about wage violations at a California warehouse managed by Schneider.  California labor inspectors had previously fined a staffing firm hired by Schneider for failing to provide itemized wage statements and shorting workers’ paychecks.

In Chicago tomorrow, workers will be backed by members of Chicago Neighborhoods First, a new coalition of business, labor, environmental and community groups that promotes “community-driven economic development” and corporate accountability.

The group includes community organizations in Austin, Chatham, and Pullman, all neighborhoods where Wal-Mart has built or is building new stores.

“If Wal-Mart wants to be part of Chicago, then Wal-Mart must ensure workers are paid what they are owed and that no retaliation takes place,” said Elce Redmond of the South Austin Coalition.

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