Workers Travel to Walmart’s Arkansas Home Office and Demand an End to Retaliation
BENTONVILLE, Ark. – Following national strikes at Walmart stores and at warehouses in Southern California and Illinois, warehouse workers who move Walmart merchandise traveled to Arkansas this week to call for an end to a new wave of increased retaliation against workers at Walmart-contracted warehouses.
After more than a dozen warehouse workers from Illinois and Southern California arrived in Walmart’s home town, Walmart finally agreed to meet with warehouse workers.
“Our principal demand has been for Walmart to take responsibility for its contracted warehouses. That means that it must enforce its own Standards for Suppliers within its warehouses to ensure that working conditions are safe, its contractors follow the law, workers are not retaliated against and workers are paid a sufficient wage,” said Guadalupe Palma, a deputy director with Warehouse Workers United.
“We have also asked that Walmart sit down with workers and hear directly from them about the working conditions and the retaliation they face in the warehouse. Today for the first time ever Walmart executives sat down face to face with three warehouse workers from Illinois and Southern California right here in Arkansas,” Palma said.
Tens of thousands of warehouse workers form a critical link in Walmart’s supply chain and without them Walmart’s stores would not be stocked. Walmart can play a role in improving working conditions for all workers, guest workers and warehouse workers, in its supply chain.
“We are speaking out for humane jobs – working equipment, clean water to drink, fans to keep cool – and we are targeted and retaliated against,” said David Garcia, a warehouse worker in Southern California. “I went on strike to fix these problems and I was fired. Now I am in danger of losing my home and not being able to provide for my sons just because I want a safe place to work.”
Late last week workers filed a series of charges with the federal government to stop a new wave of illegal retaliation at a Walmart-contracted warehouse in Southern California. The charges document the unlawful termination of Garcia as well as illegal demotions, retaliatory reduction of hours and illegal threats. In August, prior to their strike, workers filed a detailed complaint directly with Walmart documenting many problems within its contracted warehouses. Walmart never responded to the complaint.
“Last week my paycheck was for $40,” said Raymond Castillo, a warehouse worker in Southern California who made the journey to Arkansas. “I can barely buy gas with $40 let alone food and diapers for my son.”
While workers in Illinois returned to work after a 21-day strike with back pay for their time on strike, the delegation of workers expressed concern that illegal retaliation and poor working conditions will persist in Walmart’s domestic supply chain, which affects hundreds of thousands of store associates, warehouse workers, guest workers and others.
“While we won our strike, we are still fighting for fair pay for all hours worked, safe working conditions and an end to discrimination”, said Walmart warehouse worker Mike Compton. “Walmart needs to improve conditions in their warehouses and respect those of us who make sure their stores are stocked.”
Warehouse workers also delivered more than 150,000 signatures from around the country in support of improved working conditions and an end to retaliation against workers who speak out. Many of the signatures were collected by the consumer watchdog group SumofUs.org. The group also bought ads in Arkansas papers last week in support of warehouse workers’ efforts. The ads feature portraits of four top Walmart executives and call on the mega retailer to take responsibility for working conditions inside its contracted warehouses. You can view the petition here, here and here and the ads here.
Last week, Walmart workers from stores in Seattle, Miami, the Washington, D.C. area, Sacramento and the San Francisco Bay Area walked off the job and also converged at Walmart’s Bentonville headquarters during the mega retailer’s annual financial analyst meeting. The Walmart associate strikes came just days after the first-ever strike of Walmart associates in Los Angeles where workers walked-off the job Oct. 4 to call for an end to retaliation.
The majority of warehouse workers are hired through temp agencies, paid low wages, receive no benefits, and have no job security. They lift heavy boxes – up to 250-pounds – from hot, metal shipping containers. Workers encounter inhumane work speeds, pollutants, extreme temperatures, little ventilation and intense retaliation if they complain about the conditions. Serious injuries on the job are common.
This fall workers went on strike to protest retaliation committed by their employers, Walmart contractors, when they spoke out about their working conditions. When they returned to work retaliation increased. Walmart is the largest company in the world and sets the standards in the retail and logistics industries.