Wal-Mart shut down three warehouses in Southern California on Feb. 29 when Occupiers gathered in Mira Loma to ally with unions and show support for the region’s 118,000 storehouse workers, many of whom are underpaid and overworked. –ARK


… Unions have been pursuing a new strategy with Walmart, particularly with the warehouse workers in Mira Loma. The Warehouse Workers United is a project of Change to Win, which was set up in 2005, mainly by the Teamsters and Service Employees International Union, as an alternative to the AFL-CIO (and has since foundered). The organizing model hearkens back to the labor militancy of the 1930s before employers gained an enduring advantage after the Taft-Hartley Act passed in 1947. Warehouse Workers United has engaged in door-knocking campaigns in the Inland Empire’s poor communities as well as establishing a workers center. It is trying to use the model of a corporate campaign, which moves beyond the workplace, to mobilize community support to pressure corporations. The goal is to force Walmart to the table, make it accept responsibility for workers in its warehouses, and improve their pay and conditions.

One of those other means is the Occupy movement. The sight of muscular unions (compared to other social movements) dialing 911 for raggedy anarchist-inspired occupiers is a telling sign of the power of the Occupy brand. Lending support to the Walmart workers on Feb. 29 were occupiers from Los Angeles, Fullerton, Riverside and San Bernardino. We arrived to find an overwhelmingly youthful crowd with a band of black bearing homemade plastic shields, gas masks and bandannas across their faces, adding color to the soul-crushing sprawl of the Inland Empire. We followed demonstrators as they wandered to and fro, discovering that all three Walmart distribution centers there had been preemptively shut down.

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