Wednesday, November 21, 2012

WalMart Stike, Black Friday Boycott, and Will County

Will County is at the heart of both the nation's freight distribution system and recent action by workers to change how WalMart treats workers at its warehouses and retail stores.  Will County--where all 6 Class A Railroads meet--is home to the nation's largest inland port---two intermodals where trains bring freight from the coast for transfer to truck and distribution to a big-box store near year.  If you live in Will County you have probably seen the long intermodal trains carrying containers headed into the intermodals in Joliet and Elwood.

In September 2012, workers at the massive WalMart warehouse in Elwood, Illinois went on strike for unfair labor practices.  The workers---employed through the staffing agency Roadlink to work at the WalMart warehouse which is run by Schneider Logistics---presented management with a petition about workers' concerns about wage theft, unsafe conditions, and discrimination.  Workers were told they to leave the building, and then went on strike for illegal retaliation.

Here, a striking worker at the Elwood WalMart warehouse explains why he went on strike:


Workers at the warehouse also stated they were sometimes paid by a "piece rate" system that resulted in getting paid less than minimum wage and were also not paid for all hours worked:

An October 1, 2012 rally for striking workers in front of the WalMart warehouse in Elwood led to arrests after members of the clergy sat down in the street in an act of civil disobedience against what they said were injustices in the warehouse:

 Mike Compton, a striking worker at the Elwood WalMart Warehouse was interviewed on Democracy Now about his experience at the WalMart warehouse and how warehouse workers felt connected to WalMart retail employees who are planning a Black Friday strike:


Many of the Will County workers organize with Joliet-based Warehouse Workers for Justice.  The group is an independent workers center founded by the United Electrical Workers.  Warehouse Workers for Justice has been organizing for three years in Will County and has called for improvement in Will County warehouses and for making warehouse jobs permanent and family-supporting.  Warehouse Workers for Justices says the majority of warehouse jobs in Will County are based on a "perma-temp" system wherein most people working in warehouses are employed not by the company whose goods are moving through the warehouse, but by staffing agencies that hire people on a temp basis.  The group also claims wage theft, discrimination, and a lack of basic benefits characterize most warehouse jobs in Will County.  Last winter, Warehouse Workers for Justice held a community meeting on sexual harassment in warehouses:

Warehouse Workers for Justice will hold a rally in front of Sacred Heart Church in Joliet at 8 a.m. on Black Friday and then head to the WalMart on West Jefferson Street in Joliet.