Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Abusive employer Marquez Brothers gets the OK from Walmart

Marquez Brothers workers after voting down the contract proposal in May. 
Marquez Brothers, the California cheese plant with the horrific record of mistreating workers, recently got approval by an "independent auditor" to continue as a Walmart contractor.

No one should be surprised by this. Getting approval to be a Walmart contractor involves passing a very low bar indeed. Marquez Brothers joins Bangladeshi garment factories and warehouses accused of massive wage theft.  And it was only when a disgusted public and suppliers put pressure on Walmart did it sever its relationship with C.J.'s Seafoods, a Louisiana seafood processor that enslaved its workers.

Marquez Brothers is a horror story in its own right. The company's employees voted last year to join the Teamsters, but management is spending heavily on a nasty law firm to bust the union. The company made a ludicrous contract proposal in May that was voted down 119-2.

Retaliation against workers is common, and union supporters have been fired. In March, one of the Marquez Brothers' low-wage workers went to testify at a hearing in the state capitalabout its intimidation of immigrant employees. The company's pricey lawyers to follow the worker to the hearing room in Sacramento and intimidate her in front of lawmakers.

Wages are as low as minimum wage. Employees who have worked at Marquez Brothers for 10 years are making $9 an hour, while health care for a family is more than $600 a month. We are told management gave employees a penny an hour raise and told them they should be grateful.

You can imagine what their working conditions are like. Workers who cook cheese are given gloves so cheap their hands get burned. Workers injured by slipping in the freezer aren't given light duty. If workers apply for workers comp or unemployment benefits, Marquez Brothers tries to block them. One worker in his 40s was told by his supervisor that he should quit because he's too old and no longer useful to the Marquez Brothers.

Walmart recently sent an "independent" auditor to assess the company's labor practices. You can guess how it happened. The auditor didn't speak Spanish, so the human relations manager active in busting the union did the translation.

Marquez Brothers got a passing grade from Walmart. We hope they're proud of it.