In this modern era, fighting for a decent wage, benefits, and a healthy working environment is considered greedy. But what about when thirty warehouse workers stand up to corporate greed in the suburbs of Chicago? Are they being greedy by taking money away from the job creators that are 'helping' America? No, and if you are not already behind them here are the reasons why you should support Warehouse Workers for Justice (WWJ).
Why do warehouse workers matter to you, the reader? Chances are you do your shopping at a big chain like Wal-Mart, Target, etc. Do you think that it magically gets unloaded from the truck and onto the shelves? No, there are people there working day and night facing terrible working conditions to make sure you get your big screen TV in one whole not in a million tiny pieces. Warehouse workers aren't some remote issue. They probably helped unload the computer you are reading this post on. You might have driven past them in your morning commute today. Yet, their rights do not fall within those of today's era and are continually violated.
One of the most common violations faced by the warehouse workers is wage theft. WWJ surveyed workers of the area and found that many were not receiving the pay that was due to them from the work they did. Many times they are promised an hourly wage plus a per piece wage. For example, an average warehouse worker should be getting paid $10 an hour plus $50 for every x amount of boxes they move. Many workers never saw those $10 per hour just the per piece, and were beginning to see that they would work 46 hours a week but only make around $250 a week, which makes for an hourly wage of around $5. That's not even the legally required Illinois minimum wage of $8.25 or the US minimum wage of $7.25.
To add insult to injury, they are also working under terrible conditions. The areas they work in do not have adequate temperature control leading to scalding hot temperatures in the summer and freezing cold temperatures in the winter. They are also denied basic items needed for safe unloading such as gloves and back braces.
Despite being denied proper safety equipment, if they do get hurt from working, they are not allowed any benefits such as days off. Many are threatened with firing and fear losing their jobs since there is no job security with many warehouse jobs being temp not direct hires. One woman recounts a tale of advising her supervisor that her medication had an unfortunate side effect of frequent urination, but that her boss, despite knowing, was getting so angry at her constant bathroom breaks that she held it in, got a bladder infection, and called in sick the next day only to be threatened with losing her job if she did not come in to work. She ended up having to go in despite the radiating pain in her bladder.
Violations like these can only exist in the absence of unions, and they are just a sampling of what the warehouse workers have to put up with from sexual harassment to illegal retaliation for reporting the aforementioned illegal activity such as wage theft. They are not asking for compensation like CEOs. Rather, just enough so that they can support their families, and that includes a better wage, steady employment and benefits. Just because the warehouse workers are part of the lowest rung of the supply chain does not mean their rights matter any less. In fact, they matter more because without them the big store chains would not be able to stock the stores that allow their CEOs to continue making untaxable millions to create 'jobs.' How about they use some of that money to provide the workers who made them rich some benefits.
For more information please check out http://www.warehouseworker.org.
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