On Monday, October 1st, Action Now members joined Warehouse Workers for Justice and other community, labor and religious organizations in a protest at a Walmart Warehouse in Elwood, Illinois to support the workers that had gone on strike as a result of unfair labor conditions. The protest of over 200 people succeeded in shutting down Walmart’s largest distribution center in North America. When clergy, community and labor leaders blocked the road leading out of the warehouse, Walmart sent out riot police equipped with a sound cannon to arrest them. Action Now members say the riot police told them that if they didn’t move they would be subjected to “chemical weapons and lethal force.”
Workers went on strike at the Walmart warehouse on September 15, 2012 because of management’s illegal retaliation against workers attempting to present the company their concerns about wage theft, unsafe conditions, discrimination and sexual harassment. Warehouse workers labor under extreme temperatures, lifting thousands of boxes that can weigh up to 250lbs each. Workplace injuries are common; workers rarely earn a living wage or have any benefits. Workers were demanding an end to retaliation against those who speak up about poor conditions.
The Illinois strike is a part of a bigger movement, where for the first time in Walmart’s 50 year history, workers at multiple stores around the country have gone on strike to protest retaliation and intimidation by the biggest private employer in the world. On September 12th, Walmart warehouse workers went on strike in Southern California. On October 2nd, three women filed a sexual discrimination lawsuit against Walmart, hoping to build another class action suit against the company. On October 5th, Walmart store workers in Los Angeles went on strike.
On October 6th, Warehouse workers in Elwood, Illinois announced a historic victory. According to the Warehouse Workers for Justice website, “all striking Roadlink workers at Walmart’s Elwood warehouse have won their principal demand for an end to illegal retaliation against workers protesting poor conditions. They will return to work with their full pay while they were out on strike. Workers will return to work and continue the fight for safe working conditions, fair pay for all hours worked and an end to discrimination.”
Salon, “Wal-Mart workers on strike”
Fox Valley Labor News, “Protestors arrested after act of civil disobedience”
The Atlantic Wire, “Wal-Mart’s Labor Rights Headaches Are Adding Up”