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A bit of good news from California in the struggle against Walmart

Josh Eidelson reports on an encouraging development in today’s Nation:

“District Court Judge Christina Snyder signaled she intends to grant a request to add Walmart as a named defendant in a federal class action lawsuit over alleged wage theft at its California distribution centers. The ruling is a setback for the retail giant, which has maintained that it is not legally responsible for the alleged abuses by its contractors and subcontractors….

The tentative ruling follows strikes by subcontracted warehouse workers in California and Illinois, and increased scrutiny regarding Walmart contracting in the United States and abroad.

As The Nation has reported, the lawsuit was brought by warehouse workers moving Walmart goods in Southern California’s Inland Empire. The workers were employed by staffing companies, which were subcontracted by the logistics company Schneider, which was hired by Walmart. In 2011, after workers filed a federal lawsuit and instigated a state investigation of alleged wage and hour violations, subcontractor Rogers-Premier announced a mass layoff of one warehouse’s entire workforce. Those terminations were blocked last February, by a rare federal district court restraining order.

The same court allowed Schneider—rather than just its subcontractors—to be named as a defendant in the class action suit over the alleged wage theft, Everardo Carrillo, et al. v. Schneider Logistics, Inc., et al. On November 30, the workers’ attorneys petitioned the court to add Walmart as a defendant as well, based on evidence garnered during the discovery process. They said that the workers exclusively moved Walmart products, and that Walmart instructed Schneider when to refill ink in its printers, and how many workers to assign to unload a particular truck….

This morning’s tentative ruling comes ten days after the US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected an appeal from Schneider, affirming two injunctions Judge Snyder issued against the contractor. The same day, The Wall Street Journal broke the news that Walmart plans to implement an auditing system for labor conditions in its subcontracted warehouses similar to the one in place for its suppliers abroad. That news was met with skepticism from WWU and the nonprofit Workers Rights Consortium, whose leaders charge that such auditing failed to prevent a deadly factory fire in Bangladesh.”

Please read the full article here:

Our corporate overlords are accustomed to getting away with criminal abuses through the use of contractors and sub-contractors. If Walmart fails to wriggle out of this pickle, it may embolden the company’s workers to more forcefully resist some of its many other abuses.

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