Workers at another Walmart warehouse–this one in Elwood Illinois, near Chicago–have gone on strike to protest wage theft, unsafe working conditions, and employer retaliation.
On Thursday, September 14, workers at the Elwood warehouse filed a wage theft lawsuit against their employer, Roadlink Workforce Solutions, a temporary staffing company that supplies and manages Walmart’s Elwood warehouse staff.
Warehouse workers said that on Friday, the day after the suit was filed, warehouse management stepped up its harassment and intimidation of workers who speak out against conditions at the warehouse. Workers responded by going out on strike.
“We are on strike to protest the violation of our rights,” said Eric Skoglund, one of the strikers. “We are tired of retaliation and threats every time we speak up about unsafe working conditions and other abuses.”
The strikers are calling on Walmart to take responsibility for the actions of its contractor and end the abuses at its largest warehouse.
The suit that the workers filed on Thursday charges Roadlink with wage theft. According to the striking workers, warehouse pay is based on a piece-rate system, which determines pay by the amount of cargo that workers load or unload. As a result of the piece rate system, pay is sometimes below the minimum wage. Workers are also not compensated for overtime work.
The workers say that the piece rate system speeds up work to unsafe levels making an already dangerous work environment even more dangerous.
The workers filed the suit with the help of Warehouse Workers for Justice, which is also assisting the workers in their strike. Warehouse Workers for Justice has set up a strike fund to provide economic assistance during the strike.
“We need to build a strike fund quickly, so that those on strike are able to support their families during these difficult times,” read an email to WWJ supporters.
The Illinois workers join another group of Walmart warehouse workers who walked off the job. A week ago, workers at a Walmart warehouse in Mira Loma, California went on strike to protest inhumane conditions at their warehouse.
They are still on strike and have joined a 50-mile pilgrimage from the Inland Empire, the heart of the Southern California warehouse industry, to a Los Angeles Walmart where workers will demand that Walmart take responsibility for conditions at its warehouses. This pilgrimage for warehouse justice was organized by Warehouse Workers United.
The Illinois workers are also organizing demonstrations demanding that Walmart take responsibility for working conditions at its warehouses. On Tuesday, they will be joined by striking Chicago teachers for a rally and march to a neighborhood Walmart.
On Wednesday, the strikers will rally at the downtown Chicago Walmart.
The Illinois strikers are planning an even bigger demonstration on October 1. They are calling on supporters to come to Elwood for a solidarity rally at the Walmart warehouse.
“Walmart workers in Elwood, Illinois are fighting to win safe jobs, living wages, and respect from the world’s largest retailer,” read an email to supporters. “Workers at the warehouse face wage theft, a dangerous workplace, and rampant sexual harassment. But workers are refusing to stay quiet and are calling on Walmart to take responsibility for working conditions in its supply chain. Stand with us on October 1st to speak out against these injustices.”