Clergy Members Denied Access to Warehouse (UPDATED)

On Sept. 19, Dr. Jerry Campbell, president of the Claremont School of Theology; Dr. Helene Slessarev Jamir, professor at the Claremont School of Theology and Claremont Lincoln University; Father David Starr of St. John’s Church in San Bernardino; Stephen Padilla and Francisco Garcia, graduate students in religious studies and ethics preparing for ordained ministry; and Rev. Eugene Boutilier, retired minister of the United Church of Christ, attempted to visit the warehouse where workers are on strike in Mira Loma, California to independently check whether or not workers’ safety concerns have been addressed.

Here is the clergy members’ account:

We arrived at the NFI Industries’ distribution center in the Mira Loma area of Jurupa Valley the morning of Sept. 19. We were stopped at the gate where we explained that we had come to meet with Ed Jankay, the facility director.

We explained we wanted to meet with Mr. Jankay to make our assessment about the current status of working conditions at the warehouse. We are concerned about claims made by NFI, the warehouse operator, and by Walmart in the news media claiming that health and safety concerns have been addressed. Workers report that the problems have not been fixed. We wanted to make an independent assessment of the facility as we are very concerned about potential labor law violations.

We were denied access and refused an appointment with the facility director.

We asked to see Warestaff, the temporary staffing agency that employs the warehouse workers, administrator Alejandra Herrera and were told she was not at the site that day.

When we continued the conversation with security personnel, they made more phone calls while we waited. We were then told we would meet Tom Garner, regional security official for NFI. Our 15 or 20 minute conversation with him was polite, although at one point he stated that should we decline to leave he would call the Sheriff and have us removed. Garner said that Cal/OSHA had been to the warehouse and “had found nothing wrong.” (Note: Cal/OSHA is currently investigating claims at the NFI facility in Mira Loma. Comprehensive inspections such as the one at the NFI facility in Chino, California that led to more than $250,000 in citations in January often take up to six months. The ongoing inspection of the Mira Loma NFI facility opened in July 2012 and has not been closed.) We suggested that if there was “nothing wrong,” then NFI must have made some changes because we had heard direct testimony from dozens of workers about many health and safety hazards. He replied, “we haven’t done anything.”

Mr. Garner assured us we could return for an escorted visit, and only an escorted visit, if we had a prior appointment. We assured him we would seek an appointment.

UPDATE 1:

Clergy members called Sept. 20 and asked to speak with Ed Jankay. They were told he was “in a meeting.” Mr. Jankay has yet to follow up or to set an appointment.

UPDATE 2:

Clergy members called Sept. 21 and asked to speak with Ed Jankay. They were transferred to a voicemail, left a message for Mr. Jankay and have yet to hear back.

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