Freezing for Wal-Mart: Sub-zero warehouse temperatures spur Indiana work stoppage

Amid polar vortex and state of emergency, workers defied a boss who told them to stay on the job VIDEO

Topics: Video, Walmart, Wal-Mart, Indiana, Labor, Unions, polar vortex, Strike, ,

Freezing for Wal-Mart: Sub-zero warehouse temperatures spur Indiana work stoppageA protest outside Wal-mart in Los Angeles November 7, 2013. (Credit: Reuters/Lucy Nicholson)

Subjected to sub-zero temperatures and compelled to work despite a state of emergency, sub-contracted Wal-Mart warehouse employees halted work and forced their boss to shutdown the building, according to a union-backed group.

“They are running a slave trade,” charged Dion Stammis, an employee of Linc Logistics, the company contracted by Wal-Mart to run the Hammond, Indiana facility. Linc’s parent company, Universal Truckload Services, did not respond to multiple requests for comments; neither did Wal-Mart.

The Warehouse Workers Organizing Committee, a labor group backed by the United Electrical, Radio & Machine Workers of America union, started organizing last year against alleged abuses in the Hammond warehouse. (The same group supported 2012’s multi-week work stoppage at Wal-Mart’s top U.S. distribution center, in Elwood, Illinois.) They allege that unaddressed issues including broken dock doors and lack of heaters leave the warehouse’s workers exposed to snow, rain, ice, and freezing temperatures. WWOC organizer Sean Fulkerson told Salon that the facility “had torpedo [gas] heaters before Wal-Mart got the contract,” but “when they switched it over to a Wal-Mart facility they pulled out the heaters” because “they didn’t want to pay the gas bill.” Now, he charged, “people were getting written up for going to the bathroom and trying to warm their hands under their hand driers.”

When Linc switched sub-contractors last fall, WWJ alleges workers were told they would have to re-apply for their jobs and pay $40 each for background checks; organizers say the company backed down – and employees not only kept their jobs but got a rare raise – after a delegation of community activists and Wal-Mart retail employees confronted management in support of the warehouse workers (captured on the campaign video below).

Linc labor strife escalated during a Sunday evening shift on January 5, after county officials declared a state of emergency due to extreme weather, ordering non-emergency vehicles off the road. Organizers say employees of Linc and its sub-contractors were working in temperatures of negative 15 degrees, as worsening weather meant mounting risks if they were required to stay until the scheduled late-night end of their shift.



Stammis told Salon that he and other employees repeatedly went to management that evening seeking permission to leave early, but were rebuffed. “We’re like, ‘What’s going on, the whole world is shutting down outside,’” said Stammis. “He’s like, ‘No, get back to work, we’ve got to work until we finish everything.’”

“We got really, really mad,” Stammis told Salon. “This dude doesn’t really give a crap about us.” He cited tires freezing, a vehicle repeatedly getting stuck, and snow piling up on the dock. “The temperatures are dropping,” said Stammis, and “the wind was just blowing, ripping through.”

After being repeatedly turned away, Stammis said, workers took up a more dramatic form of protest: “Basically we all stopped work.” Instead of moving goods, Stammis told Salon, nearly all of the dozen employees on site started looking up weather info on their cell phones as ammunition to collectively confront their boss. Seeing what was happening, Stammis said, their boss came over and told them to finish up certain tasks and then “get the hell out of here,” a few hours before the end of their scheduled shift. Management also shut down the warehouse all day on January 6.

The Hammond conflict – one front in union-backed efforts to wrangle the Wal-Mart supply chain – continued once employees returned to the warehouse. Organizers say they’ve informed OSHA a worker suffered frostbite after being required to come back to work in sub-zero temperatures on January 7. Last Thursday, workers presented management with a “We’re Not Going to Freeze For Freight” petition demanding heaters, and requested the company release OSHA logs. “The only places with heat,” said Stannis, “are the office and the breakrooms.”

While Linc directly employs him and its sub-contractors directly employ most of his immediate co-workers, Stammis contended Wal-Mart “should have the most responsibility” for the conditions in which they haul its products. “They revere Wal-Mart as gods…” he told Salon. “Our boss always says, ‘They’re our number one customer,’ meaning the customer is always right.” Stammis added, “They are running a complete slave trade under everybody’s nose.”

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 14
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Pilot"

    One of our first exposures to uncomfortable “Girls” sex comes early, in the pilot episode, when Hannah and Adam “get feisty” (a phrase Hannah hates) on the couch. The pair is about to go at it doggy-style when Adam nearly inserts his penis in “the wrong hole,” and after Hannah corrects him, she awkwardly explains her lack of desire to have anal sex in too many words. “Hey, let’s play the quiet game,” Adam says, thrusting. And so the romance begins.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Elijah, "It's About Time"

    In an act of “betrayal” that messes up each of their relationships with Hannah, Marnie and Elijah open Season 2 with some more couch sex, which is almost unbearable to watch. Elijah, who is trying to explore the “hetero side” of his bisexuality, can’t maintain his erection, and the entire affair ends in very uncomfortable silence.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Charlie, "Vagina Panic"

    Poor Charlie. While he and Marnie have their fair share of uncomfortable sex over the course of their relationship, one of the saddest moments (aside from Marnie breaking up with him during intercourse) is when Marnie encourages him to penetrate her from behind so she doesn’t have to look at him. “This feels so good,” Charlie says. “We have to go slow.” Poor sucker.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Shoshanna and camp friend Matt, "Hannah's Diary"

    We’d be remiss not to mention Shoshanna’s effort to lose her virginity to an old camp friend, who tells her how “weird” it is that he “loves to eat pussy” moments before she admits she’s never “done it” before. At least it paves the way for the uncomfortable sex we later get to watch her have with Ray?

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Hard Being Easy"

    On the heels of trying (unsuccessfully) to determine the status of her early relationship with Adam, Hannah walks by her future boyfriend’s bedroom to find him masturbating alone, in one of the strangest scenes of the first season. As Adam jerks off and refuses to let Hannah participate beyond telling him how much she likes watching, we see some serious (and odd) character development ... which ends with Hannah taking a hundred-dollar bill from Adam’s wallet, for cab fare and pizza (as well as her services).

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Booth Jonathan, "Bad Friend"

    Oh, Booth Jonathan -- the little man who “knows how to do things.” After he turns Marnie on enough to make her masturbate in the bathroom at the gallery where she works, Booth finally seals the deal in a mortifying and nearly painful to watch sex scene that tells us pretty much everything we need to know about how much Marnie is willing to fake it.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Tad and Loreen, "The Return"

    The only sex scene in the series not to feature one of the main characters, Hannah’s parents’ showertime anniversary celebration is easily one of the most cringe-worthy moments of the show’s first season. Even Hannah’s mother, Loreen, observes how embarrassing the situation is, which ends with her husband, Tad, slipping out of the shower and falling naked and unconscious on the bathroom floor.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and the pharmacist, "The Return"

    Tad and Loreen aren’t the only ones to get some during Hannah’s first season trip home to Michigan. The show’s protagonist finds herself in bed with a former high school classmate, who doesn’t exactly enjoy it when Hannah puts one of her fingers near his anus. “I’m tight like a baby, right?” Hannah asks at one point. Time to press pause.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Role-Play"

    While it’s not quite a full-on, all-out sex scene, Hannah and Adam’s attempt at role play in Season 3 is certainly an intimate encounter to behold (or not). Hannah dons a blond wig and gets a little too into her role, giving a melodramatic performance that ends with a passerby punching Adam in the face. So there’s that.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Shoshanna and Ray, "Together"

    As Shoshanna and Ray near the end of their relationship, we can see their sexual chemistry getting worse and worse. It’s no more evident than when Ray is penetrating a clothed and visibly horrified Shoshanna from behind, who ends the encounter by asking if her partner will just “get out of me.”

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Frank, "Video Games"

    Hannah, Jessa’s 19-year-old stepbrother, a graveyard and too much chatting. Need we say more about how uncomfortable this sex is to watch?

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Desi, "Iowa"

    Who gets her butt motorboated? Is this a real thing? Aside from the questionable logistics and reality of Marnie and Desi’s analingus scene, there’s also the awkward moment when Marnie confuses her partner’s declaration of love for licking her butthole with love for her. Oh, Marnie.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Vagina Panic"

    There is too much in this scene to dissect: fantasies of an 11-year-old girl with a Cabbage Patch lunchbox, excessive references to that little girl as a “slut” and Adam ripping off a condom to ejaculate on Hannah’s chest. No wonder it ends with Hannah saying she almost came.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

Loading Comments...