United in Solidarity, the UFWs Join the Walmart Warehouse Workers on Their March for Safer Work Conditions

All photos courtesy of Elizabeth Brennan, Communications Director, Warehouse Workers United.  Copyright 2012. No reproduction or use thereof without the permission of WWU.

UFW President Arturo Rodriguez addressing the ‘pilgrims’ during a kick-off press conference at 10 a.m. today, Sept. 13, at the WWU office, 601 S. Milliken, Ste. A, Ontario, CA

The shared struggle between warehouse workers and farm workers is discussed in a speech by the president of the United Farm Workers (UFW) Arturo Rodriguez.

Reverend Myriam Monnet from Trinity United Methodist Church says a thoughtful prayer for the warehouse workers, and their supporters, at the WalMarch send off .

Following months of high tension, high temperatures and extreme pressure in a major Walmart-contracted warehouse, courageous workers – without having a recognized union -walked off the job this morning to protest alleged retaliation they have faced on the job. These workers are calling for safe working conditions and that Walmart take responsibility for working conditions in the warehouse.

Warehouse workers embarked on a 50-mile march today, Sept. 13. They are sleeping on church floors and relying on community organizations for support and meals. Marchers are being joined by supporters and elect. The UFW had a small delegation at their kickoff today in Ontario, which included UFW President Arturo Rodriguez addressing the ‘pilgrims’ during a kick-off press conference at 10 a.m. today, Sept. 13, at the WWU office, 601 S. Milliken, Ste. A, Ontario, CA.  Then on Sunday, September 16, dozens of farm workers will join UFW President Arturo Rodriguez as he again marches in support of these warehouse workers.

Following the tradition of the United Farm Workers, the warehouse workers hope to make their voices heard in the boisterous city of LA. Last year, the UFW launched a 200-mile pilgrimage up California’s Central Valley to Sacramento, urging Gov. Jerry Brown to support farm workers’ right to unionize.

The Warehouse Workers March for Safe Jobs will include stops in Claremont, West Covina, Baldwin Park and El Monte. It will end Tuesday with a rally on the West Step of the Los Angeles City Hall.

“The UFW just celebrated five decades of struggle to improve the working conditions of some of the poorest workers in the nation. We are happy to see that the farm worker struggle has served as an inspiration for our brothers and sisters who work in the warehouses,” Rodriguez said.

“Warehouse workers, like farm workers, still face too many basic challenges at work. And no one should have to work in the extreme heat that warehouse workers are expected to work in without proper breaks,” he said. Two UFW members – Alfredo Zamora and Hugo Custodio – are committed to walk all the way from Riverside County to Downtown LA. Dozens of farm workers from Oxnard and Central Valley are expected to join the pilgrimage Sunday.

The warehouse workers and their supporters will march along the same route, which parallels the route that goods travel through the Los Angeles basin and the Inland Empire. They will march for basic, but critical improvements on the job: fans to combat the frequent 120-degree heat, working equipment, clean water, regular breaks, an end to inhumane work quotas and no more retaliation for speaking up about safety conditions.

Warehouse employees had threatened to strike on Wednesday, after many months of high tension, high temperatures and extreme pressure in a major Walmart-contracted warehouse.

More than 85,000 workers labor in these warehouses, moving merchandise out of shipping containers that enter through the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach and onto trucks destined for retail stores like Walmart.

Among the community supporters of the march were singer/songwriter Javier Aguirre, who performed a song at the rally held at WWU headquarters in Ontario, Ca. as well as joined the warehouse marchers for the start of their 6 day, 50 mile march to Los Angeles.

The UFW is proudly supporting them, and wants to share with The Los Angeles Beat a letter written to you by one of these Walmart Warehouse workers: Marta Medina. UFW asks that you please read the letter and take action by signing their petition.

Marta Medina, center, joins her fellow warehouse workers in the ‘WalMarch’ which began on September 13 in Ontario, California and will end on September 18 in Los Angeles, California on the steps of the Los Angeles City Hall.

Dear Los Angeles Beat readers; 

After five years of lifting heavy boxes every day in the warehouse my body aches. I am 31. Walking is difficult, lifting my son is nearly impossible, and I frequently have very painful back spasms. I finally left my job at the warehouse after I seriously hurt my back.

But I had to fight for medical attention. The managers of the warehouse didn’t care about my health or safety. They tried to prevent me from seeing a doctor. I fought and I won medical care, but I have seen a lot of my co-workers fired for similar injuries. They leave the warehouse hurt, with no job and no healthcare.

We move goods for Walmart, but we are treated like we are disposable. To this day it makes me angry, that’s why I am joining with other workers and people who support us to end these inhumane working conditions.

Will you stand with us and tell Walmart to take responsibility for its warehouses?

Together, we can improve the lives of the thousands of people who live with these conditions on a daily basis. Support warehouse workers and sign our letter to Walmart. We will deliver it to Walmart executives when we arrive in Los Angeles at the end of our march.

 

 

Thank you for your support,

Marta Medina
Warehouse Worker
San Bernardino, California

Walmart Warehouse workers braved scorching heat today in a fifty mile march to protest what they allege are Walmart’s unfair practices against workers injured on the job.

Shirley Pena

About Shirley Pena

A native of Southern California, Shirley Pena began her career as a music journalist over a decade ago, writing for her websites "Stars In My Eyes:the Girlhowdy Website" and "La Raza Rock!" and progressed to creating various fan sites on Yahoo, including the first for New Zealand singer/songwriter Tim Finn. From there, she became a free agent, arranging online interviews for Yahoo fan clubs with various music artists (Andy White, John Crawford, Debora Iyall, John Easdale, etc.). She also lent her support in creating and moderating a number of Yahoo fan clubs for various music artists from the 1990s-today. As a music journalist, Shirley Pena has contributed to a number of magazines (both hard copy and online), among them:Goldmine, American Songwriter, the Fresno Examiner, The Blacklisted Journalist and UK-based Keyboard Player (where she was a principal journalist). A self-confessed "fanatic" of 1960s "British Invasion" bands, Classic Rock and nostalgic "Old Hollywood ", she also keeps her finger on the pulse of current trends in music, with a keen eye for up and coming artists of special merit. Shirley Pena loves Los Angeles, and is thrilled to join the writing staff of The Los Angeles Beat!
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