As reported by FDL’s Kevin Gosztola, peaceful Walmart warehouse strikers and solidarity protesters were met by riot police in Elwood, Illinois this week.
Workers at one of the largest distribution centers in the world have been on strike against Walmart’s infamously abysmal labor standards since mid-September, including being forced to work in extreme temperatures, inhaling dust and chemical residue, discrimination and sexual harassment — as well as retaliation against anyone who speaks up for better conditions.
On Monday, when hundreds of peaceful protesters from community, faith and labor groups rallied to the side of the workers, they were met with fully-armored riot police and an Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD) vehicle. Seventeen protesters were arrested.
The strikers have continued undeterred by the police action, but it’s already getting cold outside in Illinois, and many are unprepared to picket in cooler weather.
Firedoglake’s unique skills, resources and experience gained from building a supply chain for the Occupy movement are perfect for helping these strikers, so we reached out to see what they need. Organizers have requested a care package including socks, base layer shirts and leggings, jacket linings, jackets and our “Free Speech Kits” for nearly 40 people.
Sexual harassment and workplace retaliation seem to have been standard operating procedure for management at the Walmart distribution center. The stories are horrific and unquestionably justify the peaceful actions of these strikers and protesters in demanding a safer work environment.
As Allison Kilkenny writes in The Nation:
“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,” said Ulyonda Dickerson, a worker at the Walmart warehouse in Elwood, in a report released by Warehouse Workers for Justice.
“I told the supervisors about it, but they definitely don’t listen. One supervisor I had tried to tell said, ‘I didn’t see that.’ Just because you didn’t see it, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen,” said Samantha Rodriguez, a former Elwood warehouse employee. “When I went to another supervisor about the harassment, he asked me out on a date. I said no, and eventually I got fired.”
Walmart’s anti-labor — and really, inhumane — practices are well known. The multinational corporation relies heavily on US taxpayer subsidies, forcing its employees to accept foodstamps and government healthcare all in the name of low prices, which destroy local businesses unable to compete.
From Wisconsin’s battle to protect collective bargaining rights to the recent showdown with the Chicago Teacher’s Union over improved classroom conditions, workers across the country are waking up and demanding fair and safe labor practices. Join us as we stand in solidarity with these workers and help them continue their strike for as long as they need.
We’ll keep you updated on the strike and the delivery of our supplies.