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Hundreds Rally In Support Of Striking Suburban Warehouse Workers

By aaroncynic in News on Oct 2, 2012 4:20PM

Photo via Warehouse Workers For Justice

Hundreds rallied Monday at a Walmart distribution center in Elwood, Ill. to support striking warehouse workers. Workers at the distribution center have been on strike since mid-September, when they brought a petition to Roadlink, the logistics company who manages the center, demanding a living wage and better hours. The company suspended the workers, according to the Huffington Post, and then they went on strike. Phillip Bailey, a worker who filed a lawsuit against Roadlink, told the Huffington Post:

"They retaliated against us for delivering the petition. People are sick of taking it -- the constant speed-ups, never knowing when you'll go home from work..My major complaint is we don't know when we're going to leave.”

The Naperville Sun reports police clad in full riot gear with a Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD) at their backs arrested 17 people at the demonstration yesterday who sat down and blocked the entrance. According to Warehouse Workers for Justice, an estimated 600 people joined the 38 workers who have picketed the center every day since the strike began. The 17 arrested sang “We Shall Overcome” as they were handcuffed. According to Elwood police Chief Fred Hayes, they were cited for obstructing a roadway, which is “very similar to receiving a speeding ticket.”

Warehouse Workers for Justice has been working to improve conditions for warehouse workers in Will County and have helped workers file 11 lawsuits against companies that own or manage warehouses. In addition to reports of extreme temperatures, inconsistent and long hours and injuries, The Nation reports there have been claims of sexual harassment. Ulyonda Dickerson, a worker at the warehouse in Elwood, said:

“When I worked at the Walmart warehouse in Elwood, I was sexually harassed on a regular basis…I literally got locked inside a trailer because that's what the men thought I was there for…I reported it to my supervisor, but he didn't do anything about it.”

A spokesman for Walmart refuted some claims from WWJ, telling the Sun “This isn’t really about Walmart at all. The union is focused on fulfilling its own agenda.” Leah Fried, a spokeswoman for WWJ, said 95 percent of the union’s funding comes from foundations or donations. She added “It’s so incredible that his response for people not getting paid for heavy, difficult labor is to say it’s just a union-backed thing. They feel it’s somehow OK for this to go on in their warehouses.”