Workers at Walmart warehouse file complaint with labor board over working conditions
BY TERESA AUCH SCHULTZ firstname.lastname@example.org February 21, 2014 5:56PM
Warehouse Workers for Justice have complained about Walmart before; here, members of the group protest outside a Joliet, Ill. store in November 2012. | Sun-Times Media File Photo
Updated: March 23, 2014 6:17AM
Workers who have fought to get heating and other safety concerns addressed at a Walmart distribution warehouse in Hammond say they’re being retaliated against and have filed a charge with the National Labor Relations Board.
Leah Fried, a representative with Warehouse Workers for Justice, says the charge was filed after the workers who had organized were fired, disciplined and threatened for their efforts.
“They’re treating people who organize differently and worse than people who are not engaged in the campaign,” she said.
Fried said disciplines have ranged from warnings to suspensions and that other employees have been told that bad things will happen if they keep organizing.
The workers at Walmart Consolidation Center No. 7100 have fought since December over what they call unsafe working conditions. Most of the warehouse, which is run by LINC Logistics, was not heated, a situation made worse by the fact that about half the bay doors are broken and won’t shut, Fried said.
“It’s almost like being in a wide-open building,” she said.
One worker has already suffered frost bite. There also are other safety concerns, including forklifts with brakes that don’t work. One forklift just fell off a truck the other day, she said, but luckily no one was near it at the time.
Federal law protects employees who organize to improve working conditions.
A representative with LINC could not be reached for comment.
A statement from Walmart noted that the warehouse is not an actual Walmart facility and that the workers are not Walmart employees but that contractors are expected to follow the law, including with employees.
“We have communicated with LINC, which provides logistics services at this facility for Walmart, and they will be responding to these allegations,” the statement said.
The company referred comment on two other recent, similar cases at other Walmart distribution centers in California and Illinois to the companies that run them. The operators in both cases recently settled with workers, agreeing to hire back those who were fired and to pay $4.7 million in stolen wages.
However, Fried argued that the three cases show a concerning trend in Walmart’s distribution centers.
“We’re seeing a pattern of what’s going on in these Walmart warehouses regardless of who runs them,” she said. “Ultimately you have to question what is Walmart not doing that this continues to happen?”
On top of the NLRB charge, the workers have also filed a case with the Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
They have also seen some success, she said, after LINC finally installed what are essentially three large space heaters. They have helped bring heat to some areas of the building, she said, but more needs to be done. The broken doors mean water from melting snow can easily seep inside and freeze.
“It’s a matter of time until someone gets seriously injured or even killed,” she said.