Walmart labor unrest grows

Walmart faces more labor unrest as dozens of workers at its warehouse in Mira Loma, California walked of the job on Wednesday, November 14.

The walkout comes just eight days before Walmart associates in stores across the US plan to strike against company retaliation against associates who speak up for better working conditions on Black Friday, November 23 .

Workers at the Mira Loma warehouse are employed by Walmart contractors NFI, which operates the warehouse, and Warestaff, a temporary staffing agency

In September, workers at the warehouse went on strike to protest unfair labor practices. They returned to work when Walmart agreed to take action to enforce its “Standards for Suppliers,” a guide for what Walmart considers ethical and humane treatment of its contractors’ workforce.

But since their return to work, the warehouse workers have faced many of the same conditions that led to the strike: lack of safety on the job, extreme heat in the warehouse, lack of access to drinking water, and faulty and unsafe equipment.

These conditions led several workers to speak out and demand decent treatment. Their employers responded by cutting their hours, demoting some, and firing others.

“I was fired for trying to make where I work safe,” said David Garcia. “It has been tough. My kids need food, school supplies, and an apartment to sleep in at night, but right now it is difficult to provide them these basic things.”

According to Warehouse Workers United, a worker center supporting the strikers and other warehouse workers in Southern California, Walmart should take responsibility for its contractors’ actions and ensure that workers at its warehouses work under humane conditions.

“Walmart must intervene to uphold its own stated ‘Standards for Suppliers’ and involve workers in order to eliminate inhumane and illegal working conditions,” said Guadalupe Palma, a director of Warehouse Workers United.

The warehouse workers did not say how long they planned to stay on strike. In addition to the strikes in Southern California, workers at Walmart’s largest warehouse in Elwood, Illinois went strike in September and returned to work 21 days later with back pay for the time they were on strike. They continue to fight for better conditions and respect on the job.

Last month, about 160 Walmart workers across the US participated in nationwide strikes against the company, the first strikes by company employees in Walmart’s 50-year history.

Meanwhile, members of OUR Walmart, a nationwide organization of Walmart associates, plan to strike Walmart on Black Friday. They will be joined by community supporters who are organizing non-violent direct actions against Walmart on the same day.

Members of OUR have been speaking out on the job for better pay, affordable health care, more working hours, and respect from their employer.

In return, some have had their hours cut or been demoted. “Walmart has intimidated, threatened, and otherwise retaliated against associates for having the moral courage to see issues within our workplace and to organize for constructive change,” reads a message about the strike on OUR’s website.

Walmart associates recently received more bad news about their company’s health care plan. Managers told workers that their health care plan premium would increase by 36 percent next year, making it the third year in a row for double digit premium increases.

“Last year, my monthly premiums went up 33 percent, and this year it’s going up another 25 percent,” said Dan Hindman, an associate at the Pasadena, California Walmart. ” I can barely afford Walmart health care right now. But I don’t want to lose coverage for my son and me.”

OUR is urging Walmart associates to sign a pledge on its website not to work on Black Friday. “Together, we can show Walmart that we truly are the family they claim to be through peaceful protest!” reads a message on the OUR website.  “Let’s embolden and empower each other, stand side-by-side and peaceably stand our ground, in the name of respect for ourselves and each other!”

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