Fired warehouse workers hold Walmart accountable

wage theft

CHICAGO - After a Walmart warehouse in Elwood, Il. violated the "ethics" policy of the big box giant and deprived workers of pay they had earned, the employees sued for wage theft. Walmart, instead of pressing the contractor it hired to run the warehouse to pay its workers, promptly fired all 65 warehouse employees

Determined not to take it lying down, workers showed up Feb. 17 to fight back at a newly opened Walmart Express store here. And they brought with them a host of supporters from the public, including community, business, and political leaders.

After working a full shift Dec. 29, just four days after Christmas, 65 warehouse workers were hit with the news that they were fired, effective immediately.

The warehouse operator, Schneider Logistics, cancelled its contract with the temp agency Eclipse Staffing, after the workers filed a lawsuit against Walmart.

Warehouse Workers for Justice, a worker-led organization that has risen up in response to wage theft, and Chicago Neighborhoods First, a coalition of labor, community, and business leaders, stood in front of the West Loop Walmart, together with members of the United Food and Commercial Workers, to deliver an official complaint.

The demonstrators split into two groups: some entered the store where they handed out  leaflets to customers inside while others threw up a picket line outside. Their cries of "Walmart, shame on you" rung out as they paraded in front of the new, well-appointed showcase store.

 "We were not getting paid what we were promised when we were hired," said worker Leticia Rodriguez. "We were fired without notice, so we couldn't plan ahead." That added insult to injury, and as a result, she said, she and other workers had nowhere to turn. "We can't make ends meet now," she said.

Worker Roberto Gutierrez remarked that the group's reasons for protesting Walmart were more than justified. "I was fired with a check that said '$4.62 an hour.' It also said that I only worked 12 and a half hours. I worked at least 28.

"If I'm working my ass off, I want to be able to feed somebody for that! It's like I can't win," he concluded with exasperation. "But we will all win," he added, to the tumultuous applause of those standing around him.

Finally, Rudy Lozano, currently running for State Rep. for the 21st District of Illinois, appeared and declared his support for the protesters. "I'm here today to support the workers at Walmart," he said. "Growing up, I was always taught that an injury to one is an injury to all. As workers, we deserve to be treated with dignity and fairness. In these times, we need strong leadership. We need our unions."

Workers feel that Walmart's anti-union stance is a constant and strong contributor to the inhumane conditions they have experienced.

After a few of the fired workers emerged from within the Walmart Express, one of them, named Eric, declared, "We just let them know that we filed a complaint with them to follow the lawsuit we filed weeks ago. They told us to call their media relations person. Well, we called...and got a recording.

"The cops came and said we had to leave or we'd be arrested. We said - don't arrest us. Go to Elwood and arrest those responsible" for this injustice. And if those responsible aren't held accountable, he noted, "We're gonna be right back here real soon."

Photo: Blake Deppe/PW

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  • Wal-Mart went to hell when Sam Walton died. Bottom line managers took over and the "Associate" became the serf. You don't know half the story of how they now treat their "Associates".
    People need to dump Wal-Mart and buy everything "Made In America" at another store.
    Don't forget the rush to beat the Tax man,not pay minimum wages and to avoid Unions started with the blessings of our Washington Politicians who wrote the policies favoring our manufacturers moving to foreign countries.

    Posted by RiverRat2U, 02/21/2012 5:40pm (3 years ago)

  • when the current updated labor laws in peoples republic of china went into effect, 2008.... the first big corporation organized into unions......WALMART.

    Posted by gary hicks, 02/20/2012 5:25pm (3 years ago)

  • I can happily say that i have not shopped at a Wal-Mart since 1996. I have never had a problem finding an alternate source for comparable goods. Wal-Mart has been bad for American workers the minute they decided to drop their stance on stocking American-made products, and now they are bad for foreign workers. they also have been an antagonist of any local businesses and small-business owners.

    why is anyone still shopping there? i dont see any modern reason.

    Nicholas

    Posted by Nicholas James, 02/20/2012 1:32pm (3 years ago)

  • Wal-Mart needs to learn that they can not get by with their tactics of short changing their employees and screwing the consumer.

    I recently reported my local store for trying to offer past prime orchids off as "just wilted, a little water and they'd be fine". Bull. I contacted the supplier and informed them of the quality issue no doubt brought about by the stores inability to handle the shipment in a timely manner and thus cause blooms and bud drop from over exposure to cold temperatures (below 55 degree).

    The other day I found out they are doing away with the Greeters, some will be forced to work elsewhere in the store, most will be let go. There is no such thing as customer service with in the departments because they keep only a skeletal crew with the most workers there for the supply trucks and stocking.

    Wal-Mart is also quite good at railroading an employee if they rock the boat is any way or dare to have their own opinion about anything.

    So, go get them! Right is on your side and you should receive full compensation for all the hours and pay you were cheated out of.

    Posted by Rebecca, 02/19/2012 8:09pm (3 years ago)

  • Wal-Mart needs to learn that they can not get by with their tactics of short changing their employees and screwing the consumer.

    I recently reported my local store for trying to offer past prime orchids off as "just wilted, a little water and they'd be fine". Bull. I contacted the supplier and informed them of the quality issue no doubt brought about by the stores inability to handle the shipment in a timely manner and thus cause blooms and bud drop from over exposure to cold temperatures (below 55 degree).

    The other day I found out they are doing away with the Greeters, some will be forced to work elsewhere in the store, most will be let go. There is no such thing as customer service with in the departments because they keep only a skeletal crew with the most workers there for the supply trucks and stocking.

    Wal-Mart is also quite good at railroading an employee if they rock the boat is any way or dare to have their own opinion about anything.

    So, go get them! Right is on your side and you should receive full compensation for all the hours and pay you were cheated out of.

    Posted by Rebecca, 02/19/2012 8:08pm (3 years ago)

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