LOS ANGELES – Warehouse workers required to work inside dark, hot, metal shipping containers with little ventilation or water under pressure to meet high quotas in the face of frequent injury filed a complaint with the state agency responsible for workplace conditions Wednesday. (Español aquí)
Workers at a warehouse that moves goods exclusively for Walmart filed a complaint with California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) detailing more than a dozen serious violations. Cal/OSHA is the state agency responsible for protecting workers from safety hazards.
“I’m not just doing this for me and my family,” said Jose Gonzalez. “I am doing this for everyone who works at the warehouse. What we deal with is not fair, it’s not humane. I am not afraid. We have to say something.”
Warehouse workers staff the facility 24 hours a day, seven days a week unloading Walmart goods from shipping containers that arrive primarily from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach and then loading the goods onto long-haul trucks destined for Walmart or Sam’s Club, a subsidiary of Walmart, stores. The warehouse is operated by National Distribution Centers of Delaware, Inc. Two staffing agencies, Warestaff, LLC, and Select Staffing, Inc., supply most of the workers on site.
In the complaint, workers describe a workplace rife with unsafe conditions including limited or no access to clean water, high temperatures, broken equipment, and unreasonable and unsafe quotas. They are charged for required safety equipment. Workers are often blocked inside the trailers they are loading for up to 30 minutes with no exit.
The complaint alleges that workers who are injured on the job are denied access to medical care or compensated time for recovery, and are often told that they will be laid off if they can’t work while injured, all in violation of California law. Workers also report a thick black dust that covers the floor of trailers and containers; they believe inhaling the dust leads to nosebleeds, vomiting and coughing blood.
“It is hard to believe these working conditions exist in Southern California,” said Guadalupe Palma, a campaign director for Warehouse Workers United. “In every warehouse that moves Walmart goods where workers have come forward we have found complaints of unsafe working conditions. This complaint is intended to improve working conditions for warehouse workers in Southern California.”
Warehouse Workers United is an organization committed to improving the quality of life and jobs in Southern California’s Inland Empire. More than 85,000 warehouse workers work moving goods for major retailers like Walmart in San Bernardino and Riverside counties.
The complaint comes on the heels of news that four weeks after seafood workers in Louisiana went on strike to end forced labor at Walmart supplier C.J.’s Seafood, Walmart suspended its contract with C.J.’s pending its own investigation – adding further evidence of serious labor violations in Walmart’s supply chain.
Also in June, the National Employment Law Project released a scathing new report that documents abuses in Walmart contract warehouses in Southern California and details how Walmart’s business practices adversely affect Latino workers here. Following the release of the NELP report, an employee of Mercury Public Affairs, the L.A. PR firm hired by Walmart, was caught spying on warehouse workers. The employee was subsequently fired by Mercury, which in turn had its contract terminated by Walmart.