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Labor's Edge: Views from the California Labor Movement

Cal/OSHA Cracks Down on Walmart Warehouse Contractors

by Elizabeth Brennan, Warehouse Workers United

The state of California has cited two companies at a Walmart-dedicated warehouse in the Inland Empire for a number of safety violations after employees lodged complaints in July with Cal/OSHA.

The citations, which total about $60,000 and include several serious violations, are against the warehouse operator, NFI, and the temporary staffing agency, Warestaff, that supplied most of the warehouse workers at the facility. (Download the NFI Citations and Warestaff Citations.)

Dozens of workers, who move Walmart merchandise at the Mira Loma warehouse known as the NFI Crossdock, went on strike last September and again in November to protest retaliation they experienced after speaking out against unsafe working conditions.

Guadalupe Palma, a campaign director for Warehouse Workers United:

Cal/OSHA has determined in its investigation that safety conditions at the Walmart-contracted warehouse are not safe or legal. This vindicates the workers who were punished when they raised concerns.

When workers began speaking out about safety concerns, a Walmart spokesperson responded by saying: “We believe the complaints are either unfounded or, if legitimate, have been addressed.”

Days later Walmart updated its response: “The working conditions observed are fairly standard across the facilities utilized by Walmart service providers and are consistent with the conditions in our own warehouses.”

Still working conditions inside the Walmart-contracted warehouse do not meet the company’s own “Standards for Suppliers,” which detail standards for jobs in its supply chain including safety, compliance with all laws, freedom of association and decent wages.

This is the second time that Walmart’s contractor NFI has been hit with serious safety citations at its Southern California warehouses. In January 2012 NFI and Tri-State Staffing, a temporary staffing agency, were cited for hundreds of thousands of dollars in violations at a warehouse complex in Chino, California that also moved Walmart goods.

Additionally, a second investigation by Cal/OSHA at the same warehouse, also in response to worker complaints, may find additional abuses.

By taking action, workers are compelling warehouse operators at the NFI Crossdock to improve safety conditions immediately including:

  • Replacing broken ramps
  • Painting lines to guide forklifts
  • Ensuring workers are no longer blocked into containers by boxes of merchandise

Additionally, the citations require that workers must be provided with steel-toed boots. Read more from the CalOSHA Reporter (Registration required.)
 

More Inland Empire Complaints — DOSH Cites Warehouse Companies

Cal/OSHA has cited two companies that both “exercise supervision and control” over workers at an Inland Empire mega-warehouse for a number of alleged safety violations, including several serious ones, after employees lodged complaints with the agency.

The citations were issued Dec. 27 against the dual employers, National Distribution Center, LP, doing business as NFI, and Warestaff LLC, at NFI’s Mira Loma warehouse. They allege that the employers allowed walkways leading to emergency exits were allowed to be blocked with boxes, workers were not provided with foot protection when they were in proximity of forklifts and electric pallet jacks, they failed to train indoor workers on heat illness prevention, and failed to maintain their Injury and Illness Prevention Programs.

The Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) said in citing the firms:

Painted lines delineating walkways leading to six emergency exits were observed worn and faded to the point they were no longer clearly defined, and posed a clear hazard to employees of being blocked by stacks or pallets.

The Division also said workers should have been provided with steel-toed safety shoes where they were exposed to falling objects and “crushing actions” from mobile equipment. The other serious violations allege that the employers failed to repair warehouse doors with broken dock plates, or prevented employees from working around them, and that the companies failed to train workers on heat illness prevention while requiring them to work primarily in trailers with temperatures as high as 105°F.

Department of Industrial Relations public information officer Erika Monterroza:

Cal/OSHA found a dual-employer relationship — where one employer hires workers and provides them to another employer — at the warehouse. In this situation, both employers are potentially liable for violations of safety and health regulations that are meant to prevent workers’ injuries or illnesses. The most common dual-employer situation is a Professional Employer Organization (PEO) that provides an employee to work at a worksite under the supervision and control of another company. PEOs are prevalent in the warehousing industry.

Learn more at http://www.warehouseworkersunited.org <./p>

Posted on 01/17/2013Permalink

More posts by Elizabeth Brennan

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