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Group files lawsuit on behalf of warehouse workers

Updated: October 15, 2012 9:50AM



A lawsuit that claims employees at the Walmart warehouse in Elwood are not receiving the pay they earned was filed Thursday in federal court in Chicago.

The complaint against Roadlink Workforce Solutions is the sixth such lawsuit filed against companies Walmart contracts with to staff or run its warehouse.

Joliet-based Warehouse Workers for Justice assisted the employees in their legal action as part of its campaign to improve working conditions in area warehouses.

Chris Williams, a Warehouse Workers for Justice attorney, said the Chicago lawsuit alleges employees are not being paid wages “they are promised, entitled to by law and that they have earned” at the Elwood warehouse.

The workers are not being paid overtime and, in some cases, they are earning less than minimum wage, he added.

“I worked for Roadlink Workforce Solutions in the Walmart warehouse,” plaintiff Vincent Hoffmann said in a press release. “They had us working 10 or more hours a day lifting heavy boxes, but then didn’t pay me the overtime that I had worked so hard for. It’s hard enough trying to make ends meet and then they cheat us out of what we earned.”

Grueling work

Warehouse Workers for Justice officials say warehouse workers labor under extreme temperatures lifting thousands of boxes that can weigh up to 250 pounds each, workplace injuries are common and workers rarely earn a living wage or have any benefits.

Thursday’s lawsuit is the 11th filed by Warehouse Workers for Justice in the past three years against companies managing or staffing Will County warehouses. The group also has filed complaints with state and federal labor departments in attempt to get employees money they are owed.

Thursday’s complaint in Chicago comes a day after three dozen non-union employees at a Walmart warehouse in Southern California walked off the job to protest working conditions there, said Elizabeth Brennan, a spokeswoman for California-based Warehouse Workers United, which is a group similar to Warehouse Workers for Justice.

Brennan said the workers are protesting unfair labor practices. Starting Thursday afternoon, they will join Warehouse Workers United on a 50-mile, six-day walk from Riverside to downtown Los Angeles to highlight the poor working conditions in warehouses in Southern California. Brennan said Walmart officials continue to say they hire contractors who follow the law when they operate and staff the company’s warehouses.

“But that is just not true,” she said.

Fixing conditions in Walmart warehouses will go a long way to improving conditions in all warehouses, she said.

“Walmart is the largest retailer in the world and it really dictates standards in the logistics industry,” she said.

In late 2011, California labor officials fined two companies, both hired by Walmart, more than $1 million for not maintaining employee time records and failing to give employees itemized wage statements.

Officials at Walmart and Roadlink did not return calls seeking comment for this story.



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