My Journey to Sacramento for Justice in the Warehouse Industry

Posted on 04 May 2012

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By Santos Castaneda
Warehouse Workers United

My name is Santos Castaneda and I am a warehouse worker in Chino, CA. I unload containers full of shoes shipped from China, and load them into trailers that carry them to your local Walmart store. I have worked here for three years at minimum wage through a staffing agency in hot, dangerous conditions.

Wednesday, I spoke at the California Assembly Labor committee hearing in support of AB 1855, a bill that would change the labor code to force employers in the warehouse industry that use subcontractors take responsibility for the conditions they create. Assemblymember Norma Torres of Pomona introduced this bill because she was struck by the fact that these warehouse employers are acting so irresponsibly in her district. The California Labor Federation prioritized the legislation because the warehouse industry is so important to our state- more than 200,000 Californians work in this industry, and these are jobs crucial to our economic recovery.

If the bill passes, warehouse companies and retailers will no longer be able to set low standards with tight contracts and then hide behind staffing agencies when labor law violations are found. AB 1855 was approved Wednesday, and we are moving forward for better conditions in the industry.

In the last year, I have gone from watching the problems at my warehouse and not knowing how to make change, to speaking up about the problems to my employer and Cal/OSHA. I have been fired for standing up for my rights for a safe workplace. I have learned the power of solidarity as workers stood up to support me and I got my job back.  I have fought retaliation and demotion, and been vindicated by the state citing my employer and forcing them to change their health and safety conditions.

I have met workers from other Walmart contract warehouses in the area and their experiences are not different from mine. These workers have stood up against Walmart and its contractors for the poor conditions and wages stolen from them over years of hard work, unloading thousands of boxes per hour for less than minimum wage.

I have met Walmart associates who work in the stores – workers who unload the goods I put into containers –  and are raising their voices for better conditions at their stores. Walmart is responsible for creating conditions of poverty and exploitation in the warehouses and distribution centers that serve them in Southern California.  By setting low standards, Walmart and other retailers get away with theft from tens of thousands of workers in California.  Of all companies, Walmart, the biggest company in the world, can afford to do better.

Read about my visit and AB 1855 in La Opinión.


Santos Castaneda is a warehouse worker in Chino and member of Warehouse Workers United. This article originally appeared on Labor's Edge.

You did the right thing Santos. That is the results WE get when we set fear aside and just tell the "truth". Now having labor unite together and comming forward to government official and tell the "truth" provide a more favorable results than staying silent due to one's fear.

Reasonable people and public representative are more apt to listen to one's complaint when the complaint is reasonable and honest. But that does not end there. If we want change, we have to follow-up and stay engage and get our representative to work. That is their duty to their constituent.

There is a problem that has to change. According to your statement above: "These workers have stood up against Walmart and its contractors for the poor conditions and wages stolen from them over years of hard work ".

Changes to problems identified should not take YEARS to resolve. If it does, government agency and our representative are not working. That has been the problems in many of our government agency. That has to end. It will end only when PEOPLE, (in this case workers), demand it. A group of united workers should be able to pursuade their employer, like Wal-Mart that it woudl be to their advantage to improve the way they do business and how they treat their employees. Unsafe working condition will cost them in the long run. Injury will cost them even if they are self-insured. Their "goodwill" will be tarnished and when that is diminished it has a credible effect that can be damaging to their business reputation. When leaders, managers, CEO lose their credibility, restoring the confidence and integrity will take much longer to achieve. That is what we are witnessing NOW that people have finally awaken to reality. Happy employees working in a safe work environment is more like than not, more productive. Its common sense. Many People of Power today have lost touch with common sense because they have been blinded by greed and a false sense of power. "Inequality" among species are NOT natural nor is it common by human nature. Even animal understand that; I don't know what possessed these people (elitist) to think they are better the common man. The only thing that make sense to me is that WE THE PEOPLE define them as better that us. That is a global mistake.

If the work condition does not comply to standards, then no one in their right mind should continue to work in that condition. Without your work and contribution to make Wal-Mart a success Wal-Mart would not have existed. The only reason Wal-Mart existed for years in the kind of work environment as you have describe lies in the will of the worker. More worker need to educate themselves of their rights. And workers should remember that they are the engine that makes ANY company or any organization a SUCCESS. Employer who does not recognize this fact has not learned this lesson well. Working together without fear and threats for the common good is the key to success. Ones employer and employee learns this fact, when problem occurs, it should not take YEAR to resolve. Otherwise, company is not working with like minds and the right mission. That is what reckless management and CEO has not come to grip with. Company is only as good as the people that built it and made it to be. It takes cooperative efforts of all players--Employer, Employee, and Government.