Workers appeal to state agencies to fix unsafe working conditions as port truck drivers strike.
For Immediate Release: November 18, 2013
Contact: Elizabeth Brennan at 213-999-2164
LOS ANGELES – Warehouse workers are told to clean a mysterious oil-like substance, men and women must share a single bathroom and workers are forced to illuminate dark shipping containers with the light on their cell phones at massive Walmart-contracted warehouses near the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles.
Warehouse workers at American Logistics International, Inc. and Pacer International, Inc. in Carson, Calif. filed detailed complaints with the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health, or Cal/OSHA Friday. Both warehouses are contracted by Walmart to load and unload its merchandise including toys, bikes, house wares and more that arrives by ship through the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. Workers made their complaints public Monday as truck drivers at American Logistics went on strike to protest retaliation.
“We’ve just scratched the surface at port warehouses and already we are finding workers in danger,” said Guadalupe Palma, director of Warehouse Workers United. “Workers have bravely documented Walmart’s negligence wherever it does business. Walmart’s negative impact on workers throughout Southern California, the nation and even the world is unparalleled.”
Since 2009, warehouse workers in Southern California’s Inland Empire – the massive logistics and warehousing hub about 50 miles east of Los Angeles – have bravely exposed dangerous working conditions, millions of dollars in stolen wages and massive retaliation in facilities there. This marks the first time non-union warehouse workers are speaking out about working conditions in the port area.
Temporary warehouse workers are employed by AMR Staffing at American Logistics and Tri-State Staffing at Pacer. This is the second time Tri-State has been hit with serious safety complaints at Southern California warehouses. In January 2012 Tri-State Staffing and NFI, a warehouse operator, were cited for hundreds of thousands of dollars in violations at a warehouse complex in Chino, California that also moved Walmart goods.
“We deserve a safe work place where we are treated with dignity and respect,” said Susan Gutierrez , who is a warehouse worker at American Logistics.
Warehouse workers documented a host of safety concerns inside each of the two facilities including:
- Forklifts with loads of merchandise drive into containers leaving workers are trapped inside;
- Blocked emergency exits;
- No training or plan to respond to injuries on the job; and
- Inadequate protective gear including a lack of boots.
“Every single warehouse where we talk to workers we find that working conditions are unsafe,” Palma said. “It’s time that retailers like Walmart actively work to ensure workers who are entrusted to move their merchandise – no matter where they work in the supply chain – are safe.”
At the Pacer warehouse worker are required to change or fill propane tanks without adequate training. Strong fumes permeate the warehouse. Workers labor inside dark shipping containers with only the light of their cell phones and goods are double and triple stacked at heights up to 30 feet without any support and they frequently collapse.
Additionally at the American Logistics warehouse, workers are trapped by forklifts in shipping containers that often drift and move because the wheels are not secure and are required to clean a mysterious oil-like substance from barrels stored at the facility.
Workers also spoke about the climate of fear inside the warehouse.
“We have been scared to say anything about the dangers inside the warehouse because we might be fired for speaking out,” said Maria Quezada, who works at American Logistics. “I need my job in order to support my family, but I also need my health so that I can be there for my kids.”
About 85,000 workers labor in warehouses in the Inland Empire, San Bernardino and Riverside counties, loading and unloading goods that enter through our nation’s busiest ports in Long Beach and Los Angeles en route to major retailers like Walmart. Many workers are temporary, paid low wages, receive no benefits, and have no job security. Thousands more service warehouses in the Port area.