Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Wal-Mart warehouse fined for safety violations by Cal/OSHA

Thanks to Warehouse Workers United for the photo of the warehouse workers strike.
California safety officials last week fined two companies that run the dangerous Wal-Mart warehouse in Mira Loma, where workers struck over working conditions in September. The warehouse operator and staffing agency were fined a total of $60,000 for putting workers in danger.

The fines vindicate the workers. In September, 50 of them marched 50 miles to Los Angeles to draw attention to their terrible working conditions. They delivered a letter to a Wal-Mart office saying their equipment is dangerous, injuries are common and the 120-degree heat and pollution cause vomiting and bloody noses. They don't even get clean drinking water.

California OSHA charged the warehouse operator, NFI, with a series of violations. The agency said workers were endangered by the lack of clear traffic aisles for forklifts or electric pallet jacks and the absence of protective equipment. Unmarked aisles posed a clear hazard because pallets or stacks of merchandise could block employees from emergency exits. And a broken dock plate could have injured workers moving merchandise on hand carts and manual pallet jacks.

Warestaff, the agency that staffed the warehouse, was also fined for those violations -- as well as for failing to provide training about heat illness and emergency information. Cal/OSHA noted some employees spend most of their time in trailers where the temperature measures 105 degrees.

According to Warehouse Workers United, which the Teamsters support through our Change to Win federation:
Dozens of workers, who move Walmart merchandise at the Mira Loma warehouse known as the NFI Crossdock, went on strike last September and again in November to protest retaliation they experienced after speaking out against unsafe working conditions. 
“Cal/OSHA has determined in its investigation that safety conditions at the Walmart-contracted warehouse are not safe or legal,” said Guadalupe Palma, a campaign director for Warehouse Workers United. “This vindicates the workers who were punished when they raised concerns.”
Warehouse Workers United says the warehouse employees are paid poverty wages: $8 per hour and $250 a week, or $12,000 per year, and workplace injuries are common. They complain about stifling heat, broken equipment and inadequate access to clean water. Workplace injuries are common.

Wal-Mart denied it's doing anything wrong.  A spokesman told The Huffington Post,
The working conditions observed are fairly standard across the facilities utilized by Walmart service providers and are consistent with the conditions in our own warehouses.
But its own "Standards for Suppliers" suggests the Mira Loma warehouse doesn't meet Wal-Mart's safety standards -- at least on paper. The giant retailer says it requires suppliers to comply with health and safety laws and regulations.