Wall Street Journal (12/28/12) Shelly Banjo
In a move following protests, fines, and lawsuits over poor worker treatment at warehouses, Walmart will begin to police its subcontractors’ warehouses in a similar way to how it polices its suppliers’ factories throughout the world. Walmart, and many other big box retailers, use warehouses to store merchandise before it is delivered to stores for consumer purchase. In many cases these warehouses are subcontracted, and during the holiday season when demand peaks these subcontractors often hire temporary workers through staffing firms. Claims of poor working conditions and undelivered wages have plagued major warehouses in Illinois, New Jersey, and California, leading to protests by workers and criticism by regulators and labor activists.
“It’s not an accident that the more levels of subcontracting, the worse the violations we find,” says California labor commissioner Julie Su. She adds that the subcontracting system creates “an underground economy where it’s hard to determine who is responsible for the welfare of workers.” Walmart has meanwhile blamed many of the warehouse allegations on the companies with which it contracts, which the retailer says are responsible for making sure staffing firms comply with labor laws.