While large retailers like Wal-Mart have enjoyed historic profits in recent times, the workers who move goods to these retailers' shelves see a very different picture:
A "perma-temp" system
Warehouse Workers for Justice estimates that 70% of Chicagoland warehouses employ temps rather than direct hires. Many workers report that in suburban Will County, where many warehouses are located, it's impossible to find work anywhere other than at a staffing agency. Will County has the highest concentration of temp agencies in the state.
Although studies show a worker in the Chicagoland area needs to earn at least $16/hr to sustain a family, most warehouse jobs pay less than $10/hr, even after years on the job. Starting pay is often minimum wage, and some workers even report making less than the minimum.
An epidemic of wage theft
In surveying warehouse workers across the region, WWJ has seen many examples of short checks, unpaid overtime, workers forced to work off the clock and other abuses.
Discrimination and abuse
Warehouse workers often battle discrimination based on gender, race and national origin.
Lack of basic benefits
Access to affordable health insurance is limited. Sick days and vacations are almost unheard-of.
Unsafe working conditions
Warehouse workers face workplace injuries and exposure to diesel fumes.
Violations of workers' rights
When warehouse workers attempt to form unions or report illegal activity by their employer, they often suffer illegal retaliation.