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Walmart sign on store.
Lawyers for warehouse workers in a class action against the contractors who run warehouses for Walmart are trying to add Walmart itself to the suit. The warehouse in question is owned by Walmart and exclusively moves Walmart goods, but the company claims that because it contracts with Schneider Logistics (which in turn contracts with staffing agencies) to run and staff the warehouse, Walmart can't be held responsible for the wage theft, safety violations, and other abuses found there.

David Moberg explains:

The updated charges included six theories supporting the claim that Walmart is legally a joint employer and shares liabilities with the contractors, arguing that the relationship is not that between an arm's length provider of services or goods, like a painting contractor or bookkeeping firm that a small business might hire. The amendment to the lawsuit calls Schneider "closely-controlled" by Walmart—until last year most if not all Schneider managers had e-mail addresses—and notes that a Walmart-owned security firm is responsible for protecting the warehouse.

The attorneys said the facts uncovered in their investigation showed that the "economic realities" of the operation of the warehouse establish Walmart's legal resposibility. As Kish and Rubin said, Walmart owns the warehouse, owns all the equipment and supplies, uses the same systems as in warehouses it directly operates, and not only had its own employees in the warehouse overseeing operations but also conducted regular audits that became the basis for changes in operations.

Workers say they "were routinely forced to work off the clock, denied legally required overtime pay, and retaliated against when they tried to assert their legal rights, or even asked how their paychecks had been calculated."

A fair day's wage

  • Locked out American Crystal Sugar workers face a tough choice this weekend—a choice between two different kinds of loss. The workers have been locked out for 16 months as the company has tried to rid itself of a union contract its CEO compared to a tumor. Workers have three times rejected company proposals entailing massive concessions, and this weekend they vote again. Take concessions or stay locked out, with unemployment benefits having run out. The company isn't budging even though its profits have slipped substantially during the lockout.
  • The invaluable Sarah Jaffe on Thursday's fast food strike in New York City:
    What we've seen with Walmart and now with the fast food workers is an independent organization, supported by traditional labor unions (in this case, the Service Employees International Union along with New York Communities for Change, United NY, and the Black Institute), can be more creative in its organizing tactics. Lerner is particularly inspired by the one-day strike that the workers are undertaking today. "The old strike, you used to go out and stay out until you win. But the workers now are so angry and mistreated an the way you express that is short-term walkouts."

    In the Walmart strikes, in the Justice for Janitors campaign, and now in New York, Lerner noted, organizers have moved to find strategies that make sense to workers, that aren't trapped in the same old formulations that worked in factories but don't make sense for food service. "The key thing is not letting how workers organize be defined by the legal regime which has not only failed to protect workers but also was constructed for a very different kind of workplace," Lerner said.

  • National Labor Relations Board, good for workers and bad. The NLRB has filed a complaint against Hyatt for firing workers in Baltimore in retaliation for their union activity. But the board didn't take action against Palermo's Pizza's mass firing of immigrant workers and didn't order the company to enter into collective bargaining.
  • Here's something you don't see every day: Joe Lueken, owner of two Minnesota grocery stores, is retiring. And he's leaving the business to the workers:
    "My employees are largely responsible for any success I've had, and they deserve to get some of the benefits of that," Lueken told the Star Tribune. "You can't always take. You also have to give back."
    Plenty of business owners would totally disagree with him about that; after all, the Wall Street economy is pretty much entirely about always taking and never giving back. Which makes it especially nice to hear Lueken's stance.
  • HEI Hotels has settled with 18 workers for $130,000 for denying them meal and rest breaks in violation of California law.
  • Workers at Manhattan's Hot and Crusty have a collective bargaining agreement after a two-month shutdown intended to kill their union. Hot and Crusty will reopen December 17.
  • The Supreme Court is considering who counts as a supervisor. Is it just the person who hired you and can fire you, or is it someone who exerts control over your daily work even if they can't fire you? This is a question with major stakes for harassment cases.
  • Ten facts retailers don't want you to know about online shopping (though if you read Daily Kos Labor with any regularity you know most of them already)
  • It's illegal to not pay someone to do an actual job, a job just like any of your employees would do only for no pay. Yet a federal judge is looking for someone to do the exact same work as his paid clerks, but for free.
  • American Airlines tried to cut costs by having a non-union contractor install some airplane seats rather than using its own unionized maintenance crews. The seats came loose, having been installed by people who didn't actually know how to install them.
  • Here's a very nice thing that didn't come without struggle:
    Of the $11 billion in construction bonds approved in California this November, the largest portion by far came from the $2.8 billion property tax measure (Proposition Z) to finance current and future facility needs for the San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD). It is also one of the largest projects in the region to include local hire for construction workers residing in the lowest income areas of the school district.

The War on Education

  • Some good news out of Louisiana:
    A Louisiana state judge sided today with opponents of Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal’s sweeping private school voucher program, ruling that it is unconstitutional because it improperly diverts public state and local money intended for public schools to private institutions.
  • The Department of Education has had to tell Pennsylvania that it can't assess charter schools by easier rules than traditional public schools. And when the Arne Duncan Department of Education says you're being too favorable to charter schools, you're really being too favorable to charter schools.


  • Back in 2010, it came out that New Hampshire Republican Charlie Bass, then running to regain the congressional seat he had lost in 2006, had set up a meeting during the Bush years between Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman and the president of New England Wood Pellet to discuss getting funding for a rebate on alternative energy systems. Routine enough stuff, except that the president of the company was married to Bass's niece, and Bass was or soon became an investor in New England Wood Pellet. Now that Bass is once again on his way out of Congress, why am I bringing this up? Only because of this:
    The Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited New England Wood Pellet LLC in April in connection with explosions and fires in October 2011 that took more than 100 firefighters from 12 towns to put down. Inspectors found numerous hazards, including the absence of protective devices and a buildup of sawdust throughout the plant.
    The company will pay $100,000 fine.
  • Condolences to his family and friends:
    Marvin Miller, the soft-spoken union head who led baseball players in a series of strikes and legal battles that won free agency, revolutionized sports and turned athletes into multimillionaires, died Tuesday. He was 95.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Sat Dec 01, 2012 at 10:55 AM PST.

Also republished by In Support of Labor and Unions and Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Why would Schneider National agree to do this? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    They are a big company that does quite well without needing to let Walmart run their contracted business. If they are not offering any value-added to Walmart (and the story makes it clear that they are doing very little other than being used as insulation) what do they get out of it?

    The GOP is the party of mammon. They mock what Jesus taught.

    by freelunch on Sat Dec 01, 2012 at 11:20:54 AM PST

    •  Schneider gets lots-o-Money (3+ / 0-)

      WalMart has gone to great lengths in the past to avoid labor organizing.  This is no different.  

      WalMart will pay a 'contractor' much more than the market in order to have the ability to terminate the contractor on a moment's notice rather than face an organized workforce.

      The 'contractor' pockets the difference between the higher rate (above market rate) and what the workers actually get paid.  

      The real focus here is to make WalMart jointly responsible for the working conditions, not just pay.  

      ... the watchword of true patriotism: "Our country - when right to be kept right; when wrong to be put right." - Carl Schurz; Oct. 17, 1899

      by NevDem on Sat Dec 01, 2012 at 11:41:34 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  assuming you can find a Judge who is not... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    irate, eps62

    ...afraid of WalMart.  They should find for the workers.  

    Walmart controls enough of their lives on site so that they will be considered liable.  If not for the pay, for the working conditions, safety, and other 'non-economic' aspects of the environment.  This could very well creep into the 'corporate culture' of retaliation for questions about paychecks.  

    ... the watchword of true patriotism: "Our country - when right to be kept right; when wrong to be put right." - Carl Schurz; Oct. 17, 1899

    by NevDem on Sat Dec 01, 2012 at 11:33:36 AM PST

  •  Thanks for covering this but I am still boycotting (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    irate, PSzymeczek

    Walmart in favor of independent businesses....

    Move Single Payer Forward? Join 18,000 Doctors of PNHP and 185,000 member National Nurses United

    by divineorder on Sat Dec 01, 2012 at 11:42:26 AM PST

  •  A job I had once forced you to work extra 5 to 10 (7+ / 0-)

    minutes every shift.  You weren't supposed to leave until certain end of shift stuff was complete, which you could only start doing AFTER the shift ended.  And this was no slack job either, you worked on your feet from the minute you came in to the minute you left, minus very carefully measured breaks.

    One day the 19 year old me stupidly added up the extra time for my end of shift work, and went up to The Office, as they called the place where the bosses sat around and drank coffee, and asked for my pay.  The boss I talked to didn't even tell me his name, he just yelled at me:

    We don't pay for 5 minutes.  We don't pay for 10 minutes.
    Of course the actual total was several hours spread across about a month, I wouldn't have bothered if it had been just one day or so.    

    I guess you can squeeze a lot of extra work over a whole enterprise by cheating the workers 5 or 10 minutes more at the end of a shift.  If you can get that up to 20 or 30, you've hit the mother lode.

    You have exactly 10 seconds to change that look of disgusting pity into one of enormous respect!

    by Cartoon Peril on Sat Dec 01, 2012 at 12:02:33 PM PST

    •  At a factory I worked at once,another worker and I (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Cartoon Peril

      recieved written warnings for punching out 15 minutes late.
       We had stayed the extra time to finish up a 'hot' job.
      The warnings were signed by the plant manager,who was a
      damned fool.
       Another time he wanted to write me up for shutting my
      machine down five minutes early.I had made over my rate
      for the day and the set-up man was putting a new job in
      that afternoon,so I wanted to give the machine an extra good cleaning.
       My foreman told him to leave me alone-

      Conservatism is killing this country. Jayden

      by swampyankee on Sat Dec 01, 2012 at 12:37:29 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  This is why unions are needed today (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DSPS owl, PSzymeczek, eps62, Fairlithe

    Many people say that unions are a thing of the past and are no longer needed.  However, based on what we are seeing at Walmart and other companies we see that unions are needed more than ever to protect workers and make sure they get fairly compensated for their work.

    •  I agree completely, but (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      we need more: full employment.

      If the Congress passed job creation legislation that resulted in full employment -- infrastructure, education, green energy, and so forth -- funding it with higher taxes on the rich, mistreated workers could tell their employers to "take this job and shove it". We need a labor environment where workers have as much leverage as employers. Then, employers would be forced to court workers instead of dictating to them.

      Note to Boehner and McConnell: "You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows." --Bob Dylan-- -7.25, -6.21

      by Tim DeLaney on Sat Dec 01, 2012 at 12:38:43 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  HERE is tweet I sent ...and on time delay! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    PSzymeczek, eps62

    thru Monday.

    See how #WALMART tries to squirm around law & treat US Warehouse #Workers badly! #Costco #wiunion #unions @Edshow

    Proud to be part of the 21st Century Democratic Majority Party of the 3M's.. Multiracial,Multigender and MiddleClass

    by LOrion on Sat Dec 01, 2012 at 12:05:03 PM PST

  •  Racketeering. Perhaps... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    eps62, Fairlithe

    I think they courts could see through their obvious subterfuge by using these contracts. And their resounding decision would like be that Walmart is using these contracts for the sole purpose of avoiding legal action which they are due.

    "I think it's the duty of the comedian to find out where the line is drawn and cross it deliberately." -- George Carlin, Satirical Comic,(1937-2008)

    by Wynter on Sat Dec 01, 2012 at 12:06:15 PM PST

    •  Wow, follow that reasoning and .... (0+ / 0-)

      ... you can get to RICO fairly quickly.  Especially if there is any evidence (i.e. emails, memo) that one party knows and condones a clearly illegal action on the part of the other.  

      Interesting thought.

      ... the watchword of true patriotism: "Our country - when right to be kept right; when wrong to be put right." - Carl Schurz; Oct. 17, 1899

      by NevDem on Sat Dec 01, 2012 at 02:19:14 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  RICO no, but conspiracy likely (0+ / 0-)

      If the courts see this little contract deal as nothing more than a shell game to try and avoid responsibility then it's likely Walmart can't dodge a lawsuit. But they probably need to have evidence in the form of emails, memos, etc from Walmart linking them to acts taken by the contractor.

      If you have a contractor acting directly under orders from Walmart then I would imagine you can't call their relationship as individual companies. Especially if this contractor works solely for Walmart. On paper it may look like a separate company, but in reality they would act as part of Walmart. Therein lies the issue. If that is the case, and I am no legal scholar, they might have a case for tying Walmart into the lawsuit.

      "I think it's the duty of the comedian to find out where the line is drawn and cross it deliberately." -- George Carlin, Satirical Comic,(1937-2008)

      by Wynter on Sun Dec 02, 2012 at 06:13:43 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Laura, thank you for bringing light into the (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    weinerschnauzer, eps62, Fairlithe

    darkness; which is corporate greed imitating Walmart.

    If the Walton family wants to mend their recent behavior of greed, and offer quality union products, made in the USA, I'll consider spending my few bucks to purchase their goods.  If not, the Waltons are in for a financial surprise.

    Those who laugh last will always laugh the loudest and the laugh last is the sweetest laugh of all And when victory goes to the rank outsider...."
  •  Don't forget about.... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    PSzymeczek, eps62

    The attack on public education happening in Michigan.

    "I Welcome Their Hatred." - FDR

    by dehrha02 on Sat Dec 01, 2012 at 01:11:22 PM PST

  •  I've boycotted Walmart for two years (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    It's posted on the "net" that the Walton siblings collective worth is over $107 BILLION - up from $93 Billion in 2011.

    Found out yesterday that Walmart has been busting their butts trying to find a way to purchase docking areas in the S.F. Bay Area so they don't have to pay, not only warehouse wrkers but also Longshoremen.  Ain't gonna happen here.  

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