In the wake of the monumental 15-day strike and six-day, 50-mile “WalMarch” for safe jobs from the Inland Empire to the steps of city hall in Downtown L.A., workers at Walmart-contracted warehouses have seen a few improvements in their working conditions. They now have water coolers to drink from instead of a hose, they can cool off with fans, and some dangerous broken equipment has been fixed. But they still have a major uphill battle ahead of them as they continue thier fight for justice.
Clearly, the workers' actions are having an impact, since NFI Industries (the company that operates the warehouse where these workers move goods for Walmart) has taken heed to some of the workers’ safety concerns. But there's no doubt that the company will continue thier campaign to keep the workers hushed about any future or outstanding issues they face at work.
Ever since the WalMarch, NFI Industries has been trying to rid itself of these courageous workers, or at least scare them into staying quiet through terminations, demotions and cuts in hours. According to Ruben Valadez, a warehouse worker:
We have seen improvements with the last strike, but there is still a ways to go. After the strike in September, they made some improvements in safety, but many workers were retaliated against for speaking out in the first place.
The warehouse workers know this treatment goes against everything they stand for. Energized by the recent wave of Walmart work stoppages across the nation (read the Nation article here) this week, the warehouse workers in Riverside walked off the job again. They planned this strike for Thursday, but since retaliations increased dramatically on Tuesday, they began a day early.
Bryan Stout, a warehouse worker who had his newborn baby with him at the strike yesterday:
They’ve been retaliating against us by cutting our hours, stealing our wages, suspending us. I’m worried about being able to support my family, but something needs to be done. If we don’t make our voices heard there will be no changes. It’s not just for us, it’s for the future. We are trying to make it a better place for the people who will come to work here in the future.
Andy Rivera, another courageous worker, said while walking the picket line:
We are on strike to stop the retaliation that’s going on in the warehouses. They cut our hours, they demote us for speaking out about working conditions, leads are even treating us differently for fighting for our rights.
Although the workers are employed by NFI or Warestaff, another Walmart subcontractor, Warehouse Workers United, an organization committed to improving warehousing jobs in Southern California’s Inland Empire, says the fault lies on Walmart to ultimately demand these agencies respect their workers. That’s because all of the goods that come through this warehouse land in Walmart retail stores. And as the largest retailer in the world—with over 85,000 warehouse workers in Southern California alone—Walmart sets the standard in the industry. Warehouse Workers United is therefore calling on Walmart to enforce the standards for their suppliers that they have in writing, but don’t follow in practice.
Warehouse Workers United Deputy Director Guadalupe Palma:
Walmart must intervene to uphold its own stated ‘Standards for Suppliers’ and involve workers in order to eliminate inhumane and illegal working conditions.
Today at 10:30am, the striking warehouse workers will hold a big rally and picket line in Jurupa Valley to call for an end to the retaliation and unfair labor conditions, joined with community members who are risking arrest for standing with the workers. Follow the action live on Twitter by following @wwunited.
And show your support for the workers by signing the petition to urge Walmart to end the retaliation against workers in its warehouses.
Read more about the warehouse workers’ fight on Labor’s Edge: