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Warehouse Workers, Mechanics Pursue Unpaid Overtime

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Sacramento, CAA dispute between warehouse workers and various warehouse operators that has included, on the part of some operators violations pertaining to overtime pay laws, has escalated to include a walkout by workers in protest over working conditions and other issues inherent with facilities that provide warehousing for one of the nation's largest retailers.

According to The Press Enterprise (9/14/12), a distribution center in Jurupa Valley was the scene of a walkout by about three-dozen workers earlier this month. And a march by workers en masse that commenced September 13th and lasted six days was mounted by disgruntled workers and their union to protest conditions at Inland warehouses, which supplies Wal-Mart. The route of the march, dubbed WalMarch, was designed in a symbolic gesture to follow the route that products take between ports, and the warehouses supplying the retail giant.

Warehouse Workers United has been fighting various battles against warehouse operators and facilities that supply Wal-Mart. Recently, two labor contractors and Schneider Logistics Transloading & Distribution were hit with lawsuits alleging unpaid overtime and other wage violations. Last year, two companies that supplied workers to Schneider were fined a combined $1.1 million for failure to provide employees with itemized payroll records.

Overtime pay laws exist to ensure workers who qualify are rightfully paid overtime according to extra hours worked beyond a standard 40-hour work week—and the right to overtime pay was recently granted to farm workers in California by state legislators.

However, overtime laws also allow for certain exemptions that may disqualify employees who perform duties in certain job classifications, from receiving overtime. Outside sales workers, for example, are so exempt.

All too often, employers take these exemptions by the horns and attempt to manipulate them to their own benefit by misclassifying employees. A California-based law firm recently announced a lawsuit whereby plaintiffs performing the duties of a mechanic were classified as 'independent contractors' by their employer and thus, ineligible for overtime pay. However, according to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the mechanics should have been classified as employees, which would have made them eligible for overtime.

A communiqué from the law firm noted that some mechanics worked as many as 60 hours per week, and yet did not receive overtime pay.

As for the warehousing industry in California, there have been allegations of violations against California overtime law, low wages, improper pay records and unsafe working conditions. The Press Enterprise reported that about three-dozen workers employed at an NFI Industries warehouse at Jurupa Valley walked off the job to protest working conditions, amongst other grievances.

David Garcia, 29, who indicated to The Press Enterprise that he makes $8 an hour, spoke of sweltering in temperatures up to 120 degrees Fahrenheit in a warehouse without air conditioning. Garcia also spoke of inadequate breaks, unsafe machinery and punishment for speaking out.

A spokesperson for NFI called the allegations unfounded. Wal-Mart, through a spokesperson, said that the retailer sets certain performance standards, facility inspections have not raised any red flags, and that "working conditions are acceptable."

It is not known if the current warehousing conflict includes violations of overtime pay laws.


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