October 4, 2012: On Monday, October 1, 600 warehouse workers and union supporters shut down Wal-Mart's largest US distribution center, in Elmwood, Illinois, in a dramatic show of solidarity.
Workers and community allies were engaged in a nonviolent protest of wage theft, substandard working conditions and retaliation against striking workers. Police in riot gear met them at the gates where they arrested 17 of the protesters, including a county commissioner and several ministers.
Inspired by the Wal-Mart warehouse workers in Southern California, who walked off the job on September 12, and organized a 50 mile, six-day "WalMarch" to raise awareness of their working conditions, 38 of the Elmwood workers went on strike Sept 15.
The workers who supply all of Wal-Mart's stores work for subcontractors often make less than minimum wage, get no benefits or even a set hourly schedule, and are forced to tolerate horrible and unsafe conditions.
Warehouse Workers for Justice (WWJ) estimate that the company lost approximately $8 million Tuesday. Wal-Mart closed the warehouse as a result of the protest.
The workers in Elmwood filed their sixth lawsuit for labor violations in the last 3 years. Their most recent case claims Roadlink Workforce Solutions, Wal-Mart's Elmwood contractor, frequently failed to pay overtime and minimum wage, violating federal and local laws.
WWJ is an independent workers center founded by an affiliate of the United Electrical Workers (UE) with support from other unions and organizations.
Click here to watch a video of the Wal-Mart warehouse workers in California talking about why they went out strike.