Walmart warehouse employees end strike successfully

Warehouse workers who have been on strike at Walmart’s distribution center outside Joliet, Ill., have declared their protest a triumph after winning an agreement which will end Walmart’s retaliation against warehouse workers who blow the whistle on unsafe working conditions. The terms of the agreement also reinstate the workers to their jobs with full pay for the three weeks they were on strike.

Strike participant Ted Ledwa says this is an important victory for workers. “We forced the company to respect our rights,” he said. “We showed that when workers are united, we can stand up to the biggest corporations in the world and win.”

The immediate cause of the warehouse strike was when the Roadlink employment agency, one of Walmart’s subcontractors, fired a worker from the Elwood, Ill., distribution center. The worker filed a lawsuit charging Roadlink with wage theft; this is the sixth lawsuit filed against Walmart’s subcontractors at the Elwood distribution center. Members of the Warehouse Workers Organizing Committee walked off their jobs in support of the fired worker on September 13, and they quickly gained widespread support.

On Monday, October 1, hundreds of the striking workers and their supporters staged a demonstration which entirely shut down the Elwood distribution center, Walmart’s largest distribution center in North America. Community and labor leaders and members of the local clergy blocked the road to allow the protest to continue.

On Friday, October 5, the striking warehouse workers went to the Walmart store in Presidential Towers to deliver a letter signed by 100,000 supporters. The text of the letter demanded that Walmart end their retaliation against workers and improve working conditions.

Members of the Chicago Teachers Union joined the protesting warehouse workers during a march on the new Chatham Walmart during the recent teachers’ strike. The CTU explained that Walmart has long been a supporter of groups like Stand For Children, which are anti-union groups masquerading as school reform organizations.

Walmart’s labor difficulties seem to be on the rise these days. A group of southern California warehouse workers went on strike last month. They returned to work after one week when their demands were met. Employees of two of Walmart’s retail stores in southern California walked out last week, protesting another case of retaliation.

Walmart has been aggressively anti-union for the past 50 years, and their low employee wages, which force many employees to apply for food stamps and Medicaid to make ends meet, are well known. Workers at the distribution centers say that Walmart uses subcontractors to create a layer of insulation between itself and the employees so as to avoid taking responsibility for negligence and abuses.

Walmart employees have been quietly organizing themselves into nonunion organizations which follow the pattern set down by the Workers’ Center Movement. The groups are not unions, but they do provide Walmart’s workers with a method of advocating for themselves and raising community awareness of work conditions. The strategy seems to have made some inroads into Walmart’s aggressive self-protective stance. It is an idea with potential for change, even though workers’ rights are currently being attacked in many sections of the country.

Image Credit: Walmart Stores

Derek enjoys blogging about finance and business topics. When he is not blogging, he enjoys spending time with his kids and wife. The following article is for warehouse management systems.

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