Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Walmart still has a ways to go to help workers

Walmart in recent months has being trying to improve its public image by talking about raising its wages and improving working conditions. But the world's largest retailer still has a long way to go to bring its workforce practices up to an acceptable level, as a recent report by the Food Chain Workers' Alliance shows.

President Hoffa rallied with Taylor Farms workers last year.
As it stands, Walmart workers and those in its food supply chain are forced to put up with a number
labor issues, including gender and racial discrimination, unfair treatment of immigrants, low pay and violations of workers' freedom of association. There have also been safety violations and worker fatalities, as the document notes.

The Teamsters are familiar with several of these situations. For instance, the union has and continues to fight the practices of salad producer Taylor Farms and organic food supplier United Natural Foods, Inc. (UNFI), for the treatment of workers and the environment.

In talking about California-based Taylor Farms, the document states:
Among the many labor rights issues at Taylor Farms, the company’s almost permanent use of temporary workers through the Abel Mendoza and Slingshot agencies is one that must be highlighted. Almost two-thirds of Taylor Farms’ Tracy workforce is staffed by one of these agencies. This staffing method allows Taylor Farms to avoid giving out full-time benefits to workers that have been there for years. Some of these “temporary” employees have been working at Taylor Farms for up to 14 years and most are paid only the minimum wage. On average, the workers in Tracy earn $3 per hour less than union workers in the same job classifications in Salinas.
Meanwhile, the paper also details UNFI's effort to crackdown on warehouse workers interested in joining the Teamsters, and how the federal government sided with the union:
On February 10, 2015, the federal government found that UNFI unlawfully refused to bargain with the Teamsters union at its Moreno Valley facility [in Southern California]. This conduct would be troubling by any employer, but “it is all the more so because UNFI has represented itself to the public as a company that operates according to principles of social responsibility…” Because of UNFI’s illegal scare tactics and refusal to recognize the union contract, UNFI warehouse workers in Moreno Valley still do not have protection and benefits from unionization and collective bargaining.
If Walmart is truly interested in doing the right thing and helping workers and the environment, it will use its market power to sway suppliers and distributors to allow workers to organize and raise their standards to benefit people all across the globe.