Thursday, August 22, 2013

Olivet International warehouse workers are harrassed and fired for standing up for human rights

2013-08-22 "Walmart Supplier Warehouse Workers Fired For Taking 5-Minute Break, They Say"
by Kathleen Miles []:
Ten workers at a Walmart supplier's Southern California warehouse said they were suspended indefinitely Friday after taking a five-minute break in temperatures of more than 90 degrees.
The workers said they believe they were suspended from the Olivet International warehouse in Mira Loma, about an hour east of Los Angeles, in retaliation for raising concerns about working conditions over the last few months. The suspended workers, joined by a couple dozen supporters, picketed Wednesday morning in front of the warehouse to protest the suspensions.
Ricardo Hernandez, 21, said he had worked at the warehouse full time for a year until Friday. "We take heat breaks two or three times a day," Hernandez told HuffPost. "But then on Friday, they told us they were suspending us for taking a heat break.
"I want management to hear us and take a walk in our shoes to see what we go through every day. This warehouse is really tough to work in under such hot temperatures with no cool water," he said.
Hernandez said that when he and his coworkers have asked for water or raised safety concerns about speeding or overloaded forklifts, "They ignore us. They take us as a joke." Still, he said he wants to return to work because his pay helps support his parents and young niece.
Olivet International did not respond to HuffPost's requests for comment. Walmart declined to comment, referring questions to Olivet.
Warehouse Workers United, a labor union that supports the workers but does not officially represent them, filed an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board for each of the 10 suspended workers.
Olivet International, a privately held company, designs, manufactures and distributes handbags, luggage and apparel, according to its website. Workers at the warehouse in Mira Loma unpack, label and load boxes of Olivet handbags and luggage. Olivet managers told workers in a meeting that about 70 percent of its business goes to Walmart, two workers said. Hernandez said about half of the truck traffic at the warehouse is Walmart rigs.
Olivet's other customers include Big Lots, Bloomingdales, J.C. Penney, Kmart, Kohl's, Macy's, Marshalls, Nordstrom, Ross, Saks Fifth Avenue, Sam's Club, Sears, Target and T.J. Maxx, the company says on its website (reproduced after this article).
Guadalupe Palma, director of Warehouse Workers United, said all 10 suspended workers participated in a two-day strike in late July. About 30 of the roughly 200 workers at the warehouse in Mira Loma participated in the strike to protest what they said was intimidation, spying and retaliation for raising concerns about working conditions.
The union in May filed a complaint with the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration alleging blocked fire exits, inadequate access to water and collapses of towers of boxes. State workers inspected the warehouse following the complaint. That investigation is ongoing, according to the union. A Cal/OSHA spokesman wasn't immediately available for comment.
Soon after the inspection, the warehouse installed video cameras in employee break rooms and brought in consultants who advised workers not to discuss working conditions, Hernandez and another worker said.
"There's even [a camera] by the restroom. They can see every time you go the restroom," Hernandez said. "I think they're trying to intimidate us, to see every move we make."
Heidi Baizabal, a single mother of four who had worked at the warehouse for five years before being suspended, said supervisors expressed worry in recent months when warehouse workers began organizing. “They were telling us that the Walmart company, which is one of their main clients, was going to leave, and we’d wind up without work," she said.
Baizabal said she believes her suspension was retaliation for the July strike and for asking for better working conditions. “I feel bad. I feel depressed because my family depends on this," Baizabal told HuffPost in Spanish. “We want Walmart to take responsibility and put pressure on Olivet to give us a secure job with a good wage."
(Baizabal was interviewed in Spanish by Roque Planas, associate editor of HuffPost Latino Voices.)

2013-05-23 "Warehouse workers exposed to illegal and dangerous working conditions seek state intervention, fire exits often blocked"
from "Warehouse Workers United" []:
ONTARIO, Calif. — Citing blocked fire exits, frequent collapses of heavy boxes stacked 30 feet high and lack of adequate drinking water, more than two dozen workers who primarily move Walmart merchandise at a warehouse in Mira Loma, California called on the state of California to intervene to improve working conditions.
The workers, many of whom are paid less than $200 per week, made their detailed complaint to California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health, or Cal/OSHA, public Thursday morning. “It’s hard to imagine worse conditions inside of a domestic warehouse,” said Guadalupe Palma, director of Warehouse Workers United. “Workers are exposed to incredibly dangerous working conditions.
Workers report blocked fire exits in the warehouse; a situation all the more troubling in light of the recent Bangladeshi garment workers tragedy.” The 455,000 square foot warehouse operated by Olivet International Inc. is a key facility for Walmart luggage with Walmart’s Protégé brand suitcase representing one of the most common products that move through the warehouse. About 200 workers labor inside the warehouse.
“Most of the suitcases and pet products that we lift go to Walmart,” said Miriam Garcia, who has worked at the warehouse for two years. “We see Walmart’s name on boxes and paperwork inside the warehouse.” “It is unsafe inside the warehouse. We are treated like animals and are often yelled at and told to work faster. It is dangerous inside the warehouse. High stacks of boxes often fall and some of the forklifts don’t have working brakes. We are often blocked inside of the metal shipping containers in the darkness.”
Workers report:
* Working inside pitch black 53 foot long containers
* Blocked fire exits.
* Forklifts without working brakes and in need of repair
* One bathroom available to workers.
* The bathroom door does not always lock.
* Towers of boxes routinely fall.
* Leaks in forklift propane tanks and refueling hoses.
Domestic warehouses are a critical link in Walmart’s domestic supply chain. Warehouse workers in Southern California’s Inland Empire unpack shipping containers that arrive in the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach from Asia and are then trucked to warehouses in Riverside and San Bernardino counties.
Warehouse workers at Olivet and other facilities, working for Walmart contractors and temporary staffing agencies, manually load and unload 50-75 pound boxes destined for Walmart’s shelves. “The work is very hard,” said Cesar Garcia, who has worked at the warehouse for six years. “It’s harder because the warehouse operator cuts every corner it can. We don’t always have lights in the containers so we use our cell phones for light. We don’t have the right safety equipment either. It’s very dangerous.”
In April workers from Walmart’s global supply chain released core principles that would ensure basic labor standards in the megaretailer’s global supply chain. Workers from the National Guestworker Alliance, Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity, Warehouse Workers United, New Labor, Warehouse Workers for Justice and Jobs with Justice agreed that Walmart’s standards must be enforceable and credible, and that workers must have a voice in the process in order for working conditions to improve.
Over the course of 2012, guestworkers, factory workers and warehouse workers exposed deadly, unsafe and illegal conditions inside Walmart’s contracted facilities. In response to pressure from workers’ groups, Walmart has accepted responsibility for conditions in its supply chain, but the company’s own solutions fail to uphold its basic standards and the law.
2013-05-23 Comment from Jay says: This is not the only warehouse That has unsafe conditions. Ryder in Moreno Valley, Ross Distribution center in perris, Star Crest in Perris and so many more in The I.E.
When you make a complaint to the temp agencies they do nothing or let you go.
The temp agencies are called Kimco Staffing, Staff Mark, and so many more. The pay sucks And the range is from $8-$9 And the most only pay 8 Dollars an hour. It’s really time that all these Temp agencies and warehouse is get expose!

Olivet International's customers []:

1 comment:

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