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Security Force Arrests Supporters of Striking Walmart Warehouse Workers. Strikers return to work with full back pay!

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Rally for striking Walmart workers ends in arrests, chants

By Cindy Wojdyla Cain ccain@stmedianetwork.com October 1, 2012 5:04PM

Updated: October 2, 2012 2:27AM

7929-police-in-riot-gear-arrest-walmart-protesters-100112.jpg

ELWOOD — Police dressed in riot gear arrested 17 peaceful protesters Monday as they sat in the middle of Centerpoint Drive blocking the Walmart warehouse entrance.

The group, which was surrounded by hundreds of fellow protesters, sang “We Shall Overcome” as they were handcuffed and walked to a police transport unit.

The sit-in was part of a rally to support striking warehouse workers who walked off the job Sept. 15 to protest unfair labor practices at the massive warehouse. About 38 workers who joined the strike are picketing the warehouse every morning.

The rally organized by Warehouse Workers for Justice (WWJ) drew an estimated 600 people — including many from unions, community organizations and faith-based groups in Chicago — to the Elwood site. They gathered in a park on Deer Run and walked, sang and chanted along Mississippi Avenue on their way to the warehouse’s shipping entrance on Centerpoint Drive.

Once there, squad cars from the Will County sheriff’s police and Elwood police flanked the group to the north and south and about 25 riot police from a Mobile Field Force Team gathered on the other side of the fence in the Walmart warehouse parking lot.

The police team, which one onlooker said resembled a paramilitary group, used a bullhorn to ask the group to disperse or risk arrest and “chemical or less lethal munitions being deployed.”

Elwood police Chief Fred Hayes said he asked for the team’s assistance to make sure the protest didn’t escalate.

“Police officers always have to prepare for the worst thing that could possibly happen,” he said.

Among those arrested were Will County Board member Jackie Traynere, the Rev. Craig Purchase of Mount Zion Tabernacle Church in Joliet, the Rev. Raymond Lescher of Sacred Heart Church in Joliet and Charlotte Droogan, lay minister at Universalist Unitarian Church of Joliet.

Each arrested protester would be cited for obstructing a roadway, Hayes said.

“It’s very similar to receiving a speeding ticket,” he said.

3-year effort

The protest was an escalation of three years of work by WWJ to improve conditions for warehouse workers in Will County, which with its two intermodals has become the largest inland port in North America in recent years.

The group has helped workers file 11 lawsuits against the companies that own, manage or staff warehouses. Six of the lawsuits are against companies hired by Walmart to run its warehouse. By the end of the year, several of the lawsuits will settle for about $1 million in back pay, said Leah Fried, a WWJ spokeswoman.

Walmart has been targeted more and more in recent months by the group because “They are the worst of the worst,” said WWJ community organizer Cindy Marble.

Workers complain that they’re paid “poverty wages,” they aren’t paid overtime, they’re kept as temporary workers for years, they face sexual harassment and racial discrimination and they have to work in extreme heat and cold.

Mike Compton, one of the striking warehouse workers who walked off the job, said after working at the warehouse for three months, he was a veteran worker because the turnover is so high. He said everyone quits because “They call us bodies and that’s what we feel like.”

Fellow striker Curtis Tucker said because he’s a big guy, bosses expected him to unload trailers that were marked “team lift” by himself.

Claims denied

Walmart officials deny the accusations and they say it is WWJ, which was founded with help from the United Electrical Radio and Machine Workers, that is treating warehouse workers poorly.

“This isn’t really about Walmart at all,” said company spokesman Dan Fogleman. “... The union is focused on fulfilling its own agenda.”

WWJ is a “union-funded, union-backed” organization that wants more union members who pay dues that can be used by union bosses on their political agenda, Fogleman said.

“In the end, their efforts don’t reflect a genuine concern for the needs of the workers they are putting in the public spotlight,” he said.

WWJ’s Fried disputed Fogleman’s claim. She said WWJ is 95 percent funded by foundations and donations. The union is supporting the group, but so are many others, she said.

“It’s so incredible that his response for people not getting paid for heavy, difficult labor is to say it’s just a union-backed thing,” she said. “They feel it’s somehow OK for this to go on in their warehouses.”

During the rally, union officials were open about their hopes of organizing the warehouse workers, but they said it was to improve working conditions.

“We stand behind you,” said Bob Kingsley a union director.

Third-party links

Walmart manages and staffs more than 100 of its warehouses around the country, but it farms out management at about 25 larger regional distribution centers such as the one in Elwood, Fogleman said.

Walmart hired Schneider National Inc. to manage its warehouse in Elwood; Schneider hired Roadlink Workforce Solutions to staff the warehouse. On Sept. 13, two days before the strike began, workers filed a federal lawsuit charging Roadlink with wage theft and other labor infractions.

Schneider officials said they expect third-party vendors to comply with all laws. Roadlink officials had no comment on the lawsuit or Monday’s rally.

Walmart’s Fogleman said company executives toured the Elwood warehouse in September.

“We believe the issues that have been raised were either unfounded, or, if legitimate have been addressed,” he said.

The company is reviewing its contracts with third-party logistics companies to make sure they abide by all health and safety regulations, he said.

WWJ and its supporters aren't convinced. As the last protesters were led away by police at about 4:15 p.m., more than two hours after the rally started, the group chanted, “We’ll be back, we’ll be back.”

This LRAD cannon was allegedly on site at the time

http://instagram.com/p/QQPtq9H2CI/

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Yes we had a very similar incident at our Aladeen-Marts in Wadayia.

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This is brutal and the response from the employeer is so weak. Who cares whose backing the organizers, the reality is your treating your workers like crap and they are pissed. Another reason to hate Wal-Mart.

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Walmart has been an anti-union company for many years.

This is one reason among many of why I don't shop at Walmart.

Enjoy these two anti-union training videos.

(Coarse Language warning)

And in this second one, an actual orientation video, keep in mind that the actors are part of the Screen Actors Guild.....a union.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NVqOxmb34yc

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I'll check those videos when I get home.

But for some of you to say they were arrested for peaceful protest is misleading. They were "arrested" (physically moved and issued a citation) because they were illegally blocking traffic. The reason why was/is irrelevent.

Personally, I hate unions and am a firm supporter of work hard, shut your mouth. All of these people are free to find other employment and really, what did they expect from a Walmart subsidiary?

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you left out the part in your misleading headline where the few arrested were illegally blocking the road not because they were protesting but whatever another factless story here.

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I'll check those videos when I get home.

But for some of you to say they were arrested for peaceful protest is misleading. They were "arrested" (physically moved and issued a citation) because they were illegally blocking traffic. The reason why was/is irrelevent.

Personally, I hate unions and am a firm supporter of work hard, shut your mouth. All of these people are free to find other employment and really, what did they expect from a Walmart subsidiary?

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All of these people are free to find other employment and really, what did they expect from a Walmart subsidiary?

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Personally, I hate unions and am a firm supporter of work hard, shut your mouth. All of these people are free to find other employment and really, what did they expect from a Walmart subsidiary?

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or that some middle aged man should have to work 16 hours a day, for 7 hours minimum wage pay, lest he be called 'lazy'

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I do not see what is wrong here, those lazy bums need to get back to work.

Workers complain that they’re paid “poverty wages,” they aren’t paid overtime, they’re kept as temporary workers for years, they face sexual harassment and racial discrimination and they have to work in extreme heat and cold.
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I do not see what is wrong here, those lazy bums need to get back to work.

Isn't Walmart like no education required job? What wages do they ask for (its a min wage job), overtime?

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I can't understand Wal-Mart manages to keep getting employees.

It should be the last case scenario even after McDonalds or digging ditches.

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I can't understand Wal-Mart manages to keep getting employees.

It should be the last case scenario even after McDonalds or digging ditches.

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I can't understand Wal-Mart manages to keep getting employees.

It should be the last case scenario even after McDonalds or digging ditches.

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Labor laws here in the US are different than back home in Canada. Walmart has utilized those laws to fight unionization, which is within their rights.

I do not side with Walmart here, but this situation is interesting. The warehouse's operations are contracted out to one company, who then outsourced the labor of the warehouse to another company. The employees are employees of this outsourced company, and the union is trying to organize them. So in order to establish a collective bargaining unit, some of the employees stage a sit in, allege workplace violations which is common during a union drive, and instead of deal with the Department of Labor by asking for a certification election, because they do not have enough cards signed, their union reps would rather seek settlement of the allegations than force a certification vote. To me it sounds like these workers are being screwed by their union more than their employer.

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