Global Supply Chain Workers Pressure Walmart to Get Serious About Labor Conditions

At First-Ever Meeting, Workers Release Core Principles to Ensure Safe and Legal Working Conditions

By Warehouse Workers United

Walmart supply chain workers meeting in LA 4-9-2013In an unprecedented meeting, workers from Walmart’s global supply chain gathered Tuesday to release core principles that would ensure basic labor standards in the megaretailer’s global supply chain.

The meeting was timed to correspond with the arrival of two
Bangladeshi garment workers to Southern California. One, 19-year-old
Sumi Abedin, jumped out of a burning factory that produced clothes for
Walmart. The November 2012 fire killed 112 people. The New York Times
reported that Walmart played the lead role in blocking increased fire
safety protections at Bangladeshi garment factories the year before,
claiming the cost would be too high.

Over the course of 2012, guestworkers, factory workers and warehouse
workers exposed deadly, unsafe and illegal conditions inside Walmart’s
contracted facilities. In response to pressure from workers’ groups,
Walmart has accepted responsibility for conditions in its supply chain,
but the company’s own solutions fail to uphold its basic standards and
the law.

“Walmart must work with workers in each facet of its supply chain to
ensure dignity and safety,” said Mike Compton, a warehouse worker from
Illinois who traveled to Los Angeles for the meeting. “There is nowhere
for workers to go right now – a complaint to Walmart goes into a black
hole. There are so many workers laboring to make Walmart successful, the
company has to engage with us to make sure working conditions are safe
and legal.”

Workers across the Walmart supply chain agreed that standards must be
enforceable and credible, and that workers must have a voice in the

“We faced brutal conditions, including threats of deportation and
violence against us and our families if we complained,” said Ana Rosa
Diaz, a former guestworker at Walmart supplier C.J’s Seafood in
Louisiana and a member of the National Guestworker Alliance. “When we
went on strike, Walmart tried to cover up the abuse. Only after hundreds
of thousands of people stood up to support us, Walmart ended its
contract with C.J.’s.”

Workers in today’s international convening are responding to
Walmart’s “Standards for Suppliers” with their own set of core

“What workers have shown is that Walmart’s standards are nothing more
than a sheet of paper,” said Guadalupe Palma, director of Warehouse
Workers United. “Today workers have put forward a solution that would
lift working standards globally and create enforceable, credible
standards that are centered around workers.”

Tuesday’s meeting included workers from the National Guestworker
Alliance, Bangladesh Center for Workers Solidarity, Warehouse Workers
United, New Labor, Warehouse Workers for Justice and Jobs with Justice,
along with professors, community leaders and others.

Workers, regardless of geography, will stay in contact over social
media channels and workers on the east coast will hold a similar
convening April 18.