Striking laborers at Elwood warehouse return to work

October 8, 2012

Scott Kanowsky

flickr/peoplesworld
Picketers outside of the Elwood warehouse on October 1.

Workers who walked off their job at a giant Wal-Mart-affiliated warehouse near Joliet last month are back to work—and claiming victory.

Advocates said laborers returned to work after winning concessions from management, including back pay and improved working conditions. In September, advocates said 38 employees began a work stoppage over alleged unfair labor practices by RoadLink, a staffing agency that hired the workers.

A lawsuit, filed last month in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois Eastern Division, claimed RoadLink had failed to pay workers overtime wages and took retailiatory measures against some employees.      

Striker Phillip Bailey said he was originally fired by RoadLink for being a plaintiff in that suit. However, he said he returned to work last weekend after receiving a letter from RoadLink on October 4. In this letter, Bailey said he was ordered to report back to work and promised pay for time off during the strike.

According to Bailey, every striking employee except for two received similar letters.

In a phone interview Monday, Bailey said this is a victory for all Wal-Mart warehouse laborers.

"[It's] going to be a long way before we really start to impact their practices, but they’ll certainly be a lot more careful... This is start of something very big that’s going to change a lot of people’s lives for the better," Bailey said.

Meanwhile, Warehouse Workers for Justice (WWJ) – the self-described indepedent group that worked closely with the striking laborers – called management's concessions an "historic victory."

"[...] All striking RoadLink workers at Wal-Mart’s Elwood warehouse have won their principal demand for an end to illegal retaliation against workers protesting poor conditions. They will return to work with their full pay while they were out on strike. Workers will return to work and continue the fight for safe working conditions, fair pay for all hours worked and an end to discrimination," the group wrote in a statement.

Walmart and RoadLink officials declined to comment about the deal that brought the workers back to the warehouse. Additional requests for comment from Schneider Logistics, a Wisconsin-based company that runs the warehouse, were also declined. 

The Elwood warehouse is one of the largest distribution facilities in the country used by Arkansas-based Wal-Mart.