LOS ANGELES — Workers in Southern California employed by a distribution warehouse contracted by Wal-Mart Stores went on strike Thursday and launched a 50-mile march from the facility in Mira Loma, in Riverside County, to downtown Los Angeles to protest working conditions.
The march — called “Walmarch” — was scheduled to conclude Sunday, Sept. 16, with a rally at City Hall here.
As part of a group calling itself Warehouse Workers United, the workers are asking Wal-Mart to take responsibility for working conditions at its contracted warehouses.
According to Guadalupe Palma, a campaign director for Warehouse Workers United, "These workers have exhausted all options. They are demanding that Wal-Mart stop ignoring deplorable working conditions that affect its contracted work force. Wal-Mart has the power to improve the lives of tens of thousands of working families if it upholds its own stated 'standards for suppliers' and eliminates inhumane and illegal working conditions."
Dan Fogelman, a Wal-Mart spokesman, told SN, “We hold all our service providers and their sub-contractors to the highest standards, and we expect and require them to comply with the law and, if violations occur, to take corrective action immediately.
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“We are aware of the allegations that have been made [at Mira Loma] and have contacted our service providers to ensure they are also aware of these concerns. Based on our conversations with the providers and visits to many of the facilities, we believe the complaints were either unfounded or, if legitimate, addressed, and we are confident the working conditions are acceptable and nothing like what has been described by the union group.”
The workers, who are not part of a union, said they are striking to protest unfair labor practices, including inadequate access to clean water; scorching heat with no regular water breaks; limited access to basic health care; and a lack of properly functioning equipment. They also said they have been suspended, demoted or fired when they complained about their working conditions.
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The charges were included in a press release announcing the march issued by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union and Change to Win, which said the National Labor Relations Board and the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration are investigating the charges.
During the march workers will sleep on church floors and rely on community organizations for meals. They anticipate being joined on the march by members of the community, the clergy and elected officials.
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