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Walmart Workers: Workload, Retaliation Increase in Illinois Warehouse as Black Friday Looms

Wednesday, 21 November 2012 09:38 By Yana Kunichoff, Truthout | Report
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Walmart Warehouse Workers for Justice demonstrate in Illinois, October 1. Walmart Warehouse Workers for Justice demonstrate in Illinois, October 1. (Photo: peoplesworld)

With only three more days to go until Walmart workers around the country are expected to walk off the job on Black Friday, employees at one Walmart warehouse in Illinois say they are seeing more work and continued retaliation against organizers.

Four people from Elwood, Illinois were fired Monday following a weekend action aimed at one of the subcontractors that runs one of Walmart's Elwood warehouses.

A delegation of community groups, along with warehouse workers, presented a petition to Schneider Logistics, the company that runs the warehouse, on Saturday.

The petition called for an end to wage theft, discrimination and illegal retaliation - all issues that initially led some Elwood workers to stage a 21-day walkout on September 15th.

Their move garnered international media attention and helped set off a chain of other walkouts aimed at the conditions in Walmart's workplaces. The workers eventually returned to the warehouse will full back-pay for their 21-day strike.

Walmart asked Schneider, the subcontractor that owns the warehouse, to meet with the workers about their concerns, said Leah Freid, a representative with Warehouse Workers for Justice (WWJ). But in response, several of the workers presenting the petition were fired.

"Right after we tried to present it, I went back to work," said Mike Compton, one of the workers fired over the weekend. "They came to my trailer and said I'm taken out of service. Later that day they called me and said I was suspended, and on Monday I got a call that I was fired for employee solicitation."

According to Compton, the company sees employee solicitation as "anything that disrupted the work flow," and is short-hand for not allowing petitions or protests. An ex-Walmart employee was arrested for allegedly violating the store's policies against solicitation in Florida.

Though the petition was presented to Schneider Logistics, it was signed by 130 workers from seven different employers in the warehouse.

The firing of Compton and three of his fellow warehouse employees comes after six other firing in the preceding week, said Freid.

"It shows that despite the fact that more and more workers are saying things have to change, this can't go on, Schneider's only response has been to just try and crush what people are trying to do, and violate their legal rights," said Freid.

Warehouse workers in California also went out on strike again last week following what they say is continuing retaliation from NFI Industries, the company that runs its warehouses.

The next step, says Fried, is to follow up with Schneider. "But if they are not meeting with us, we are going to take it back to Walmart. It's ultimately Walmart's responsibility to make sure that warehouses are safe."

For the people moving Walmart products to get them into stores, the days leading up to Black Friday will only get busier.

"We have a lot more work," said Compton, "and there are a lot more temps."

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