The warehouse labor economy — a new normal for American jobs?

As many as four million workers work in warehouses throughout the U.S., many mislabeled as temporary workers, according to “The Warehouse Archipelago,” an exposé published in the American Prospect. Many of these workers are misclassified as temporary workers, as they are paid poorly and often work in unsafe conditions.

John Lippert, a journalist for the American Prospect and co-author of “The Warehouse Archipelago,” joined the America’s Work Force Union Podcast to discuss the conditions faced by warehouse workers and other labor concerns.

Low pay, unsafe working conditions in warehouse facilities

“The Warehouse Archipelago” tells the story of Rebecca Wells, the pseudonym of an African American worker at a warehouse in Joliet, Ill., who processes candy for Mars Inc. She struggles to make ends meet and spends her days packaging boxes of candy on a conveyor belt. Technically, she does not work for Mars. She is employed by a logistics company hired by a subsidiary of Mars.

Lippert said the system is working the way it is intended to work. The company finds people like Rebecca, place her in a temporary position and leave her there permanently. Though many of these laborers work these jobs long-term, turnover is high.

The pay is low and accidents are common, Lippert said. He recalled one woman who lost her leg in a workplace accident. After litigation, her case was settled for hundreds of thousands of dollars, an amount far too little for her to live off despite being permanently disabled, he said.

Temporary warehouse work becoming the new American norm

The warehouse economy is quickly becoming an American norm, Lippert argued. People praise Amazon warehouses coming into neighborhoods, but forget these warehouses get million dollar tax breaks and do not support communities. These are not industrial facilities. They are mainly a warehouse for goods from China. He said these warehouse jobs are not a path to the middle class, but are an entirely different animal.

In the 1960s, Mars Inc. candy was made and packaged in the U.S. in factories and warehouses in Chicago who employed union labor. In the late 1970s, those facilities were moved far enough out of Chicago that the unions could not relocate with the jobs, Lippert explained. The company then moved away from union labor.

Now, much of the company’s products are made in China. Mars brings little more to the U.S. job market than warehouse labor, Lippert said.


 

America’s Work Force Radio Podcast is available on iTunes, Google Play and wherever you stream your podcasts.

Listen on Apple Podcasts

Listen on Google Podcasts

Listen on Spotify

Listen on iHeart Radio


AMERICA’S WORK FORCE IS THE ONLY DAILY LABOR-RADIO PROGRAM IN THE US AND HAS BEEN ON THE AIR SINCE 1993, SUPPLYING LISTENERS WITH USEFUL, RELEVANT INPUT INTO THEIR DAILY LIVES THROUGH FACT-FINDING FEATURES, IN-DEPTH INTERVIEWS, INFORMATIVE NEWS SEGMENTS AND PRACTICAL CONSUMER REPORTS. AMERICA’S WORK FORCE IS COMMITTED TO PROVIDING AN ACCESSIBLE VENUE IN WHICH AMERICA’S WORKERS AND THEIR FAMILIES CAN HEAR DISCUSSION ON IMPORTANT, RELEVANT TOPICS SUCH AS EMPLOYMENT, HEALTHCARE, LEGISLATIVE ACTION, LABOR-MANAGEMENT RELATIONS, CORPORATE PRACTICES, FINANCES, LOCAL AND NATIONAL POLITICS, CONSUMER REPORTS AND LABOR ISSUES.

AMERICA’S WORK FORCE RADIO IS BROUGHT TO YOU IN PART BY OUR SPONSORS AMERICAN FEDERATION OF GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES, AFL-CIO, AMERICAN FEDERATION OF MUSICIANS, BMA MEDIA GROUP, COLUMBUS-CENTRAL OHIO BUILDING AND CONSTRUCTION TRADES COUNCIL, COMMUNICATION WORKERS OF AMERICA, HEAT AND FROST INSULATORS AND ALLIED WORKERS, INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF MACHINISTS AND AEROSPACE WORKERS, INTERNATIONAL UNION OF PAINTERS AND ALLIED TRADES DISTRICT COUNCIL 6, KELLEY & FERRARO, LLP,  LABOR CITIZEN MAGAZINE, LABORERS INTERNATIONAL UNION OF NORTH AMERICA, NORTH COAST AREA LABOR FEDERATION, MARITIME TRADES DEPARTMENT, OHIO FEDERATION OF TEACHERS-AMERICAN FEDERATION OF TEACHERS, UNITED AUTO WORKERS, UNITED LABOR AGENCY, UNITED STEELWORKERS.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.