Business & Economy

Walmart warehouse workers fired en masse in what they say is retaliation over labor lawsuit, organizing

Schneider Logistics operates a Walmart distribution center in Mira Loma area near Riverside.
Schneider Logistics operates a Walmart distribution center in Mira Loma area near Riverside.
Steven Cuevas/KPCC

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A Walmart distribution center in Mira Loma has laid off a group of Inland Empire warehouse workers. Workers say the decision was made because they’re trying to gain higher wages and safer working conditions.

It’s the latest dispute at a facility that’s become the focal point for labor complaints in the warehousing business.

Schneider Logistics in Mira Loma laid off more than two dozen workers this week, allegedly without warning. The workers were contracted through a staffing agency called Impact Logistics. A supervisor for Impact allegedly told the workers that the bosses at Schneider made the decision.

The workers are part of a class action lawsuit filed last year that accuses Schneider and a pair of staffing agencies of shorting their pay, denying overtime wages and other labor law violations.

"We are worried because everybody needs to work and has bills to pay," says Jesus Sauceda, one of the laid-off workers.

He was also one of several Impact workers who went to Schneider managers last week asking for more pay.

At the time of their dismissal, the company paid them minimum wage, while their counterparts hired through another agency earn, on average, three or four dollars more an hour for the same work.

"Everybody thinks it’s in retaliation because we are organizing," says Sauceda. "We’re standing up for our rights. This is not fair, we are not happy with the wages we are getting for this job. We know that they’re making more money and we know they can do better, but they don’t want to. We’re not asking nothing for free.”

Initially, Schneider Logistics officials said they could not yet comment on the layoffs. Schneider Logistics later confirmed the layoffs, but in a statement, the company says the workers were temporarily laid-off while the Walmart distribution center transitions to a new inventory management system. It says the workers could be hired back as soon as next Tuesday. Workers claim they were given no such assurances.

Earlier this week the company agreed to bring the wages of other contract workers to $12.75 an hour. That’s in line with what the company pays to its own warehouse employees.

Schneider made the decision before a federal court hearing on a class-action lawsuit that represents dozens of current and former employees.

This story has been updated.