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A strike at Walmart? Two of them. In a time when few union members dare strike, three dozen Southern California workers who move goods for Walmart were desperate enough to walk off their jobs September 12 even without union protection.
Three days later, 30 workers who’d been organizing with Warehouse Workers for Justice in Elwood, Illinois, southwest of Chicago, walked out, too.
Both groups of workers had taken legal action against their employers, contractors who move goods for Walmart, and their strikes were protesting illegal retaliation.
California strikers asked the NLRB to investigate a half dozen unfair labor practices: retaliation against and surveillance of those who’ve been organizing with the energetic Warehouse Workers United (WWU) worker center, an affiliate of the Change to Win federation, for better conditions.
Workers have been on strike at the Walmart warehouse since September 15, 2012. The unfair labor practice strike was triggered by management’s illegal retaliation against workers attempting to present the company their concerns about wage theft, unsafe conditions and discrimination. They are demanding an end to retaliation against workers who speak up about poor conditions.
Warehouse workers labor under extreme temperatures, lifting thousands of boxes that can weigh up to 250 lbs each. Workplace injuries are common; workers rarely earn a living wage or have any benefits.
Warehouse Workers for Justice is an Illinois worker center dedicated to fighting for quality jobs in the distribution industry that can sustain families and communities.
Community, faith and labor organizations mobilized this afternoon for a rally and civil disobedience action in support of thirty-eight workers on strike at a Walmart warehouse in Elwood, Illinois. They marched down to this distribution center, and, at least thirteen clergy and community leaders sat down and blocked an entrance to the center to prevent goods from arriving or leaving the warehouse. After the leaders sat down in the road, a private security force there to protect Wal-Mart, who were dressed in riot gear, marched out and surrounded the leaders.
The private security force arrested all of the people committing civil disobedience. They had an officer with a camera taking video of the action. They also drove a Humvee with an Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD) out into the street and parked fifty to one hundred feet away from where people were being arrested. The warehouse was, according to Warehouse Workers for Justice (WWJ), completely shut down.
Strikers delivered a national petition to Walmart corporate offices north of Chicago, with 37,000 signatures supporting the California workers. They got support from striking Chicago teachers September 18 when 150 red-shirted teachers marched with them from a high school to a nearby Walmart store. The group received a police escort to march in the street and then went inside the store for 45 minutes, chanting.