Yesterday, the 6-day long journey taken by striking Walmart warehouse workers, in protest of working conditions, came to a close as they reached their 50 mile destination in Los Angeles. The trek went out with a bang, as the more than 30 workers were joined by hundreds of supporters in front of L.A. City Hall.
At the rally, warehouse workers, exhausted from the journey and the 103-degree heat, took the opportunity to express to the crowd that, although the pilgrimage was tiring and hard to endure, it was nothing compared to the conditions they are forced to work in at the Inland Empire warehouse, a subcontractor of Walmart.
These warehouse workers are not protected by a union, and, by taking a stand to highlight the abuses they have endured, they have risked everything. But the risks are worth it to these workers, who work in 120-degree warehouses with no fans, which often results in vomiting and nosebleeds. Not only is the heat unbearable, but they are no given clean water or regular breaks, and the equipment they use is unsafe. Does Walmart, who controls the working conditions of the sub-contracters, think that putting workers in terribly unsafe environments and then not paying them enough to make a decent living, is okay?
It simply isn’t.
The strike has brought well-deserved attention to the unacceptable conditions at Walmart warehouses, and drawn many supporters to the workers’ cause. Warehouse Workers United, health professional volunteers, and countless supporters have helped in the effort, and speakers at the rally on Tuesday included Rep. Judy Chu, California Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal, City Councilman Ed Reyes, National Farmworkers Association co-founder Dolores Huerta, California Secretary of Labor Marty Morgenstern, and LA County Federation of Labor secretary-treasurer Elena Durazo.
Despite widespread community support for workers, Walmart and its sub-contractors haven’t offered to meet about improving the situation at all. In fact, a Walmart spokesman has claimed that Walmart officials regularly tour the locations of their subcontractors, and the conditions are “ambient.”
Despite the lies and blatant denial of those responsible, workers have taken a stand and a national spotlight is shining on the unjust treatment they receive. Once they return home, the warehouse workers plan to continue to picket outside the facility in Mira Loma where they work, in the hopes that even more workers will take a stand to decrease the amount of worker injuries due to unsafe working conditions, to fight for respect, and to force corporations like Walmart to be responsible.
For more information on the warehouse workers’ pilgrimage, and to see great photos from their journey and the rally, click here.