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Warehouse workers say Wal-Mart responsible for poor conditions

Lawyers for Inland Empire warehouse workers are raising the stakes in a legal battle with Wal-Mart Stores Inc. over hours, pay and other conditions at a giant distribution complex in Riverside County.

On Friday, they unveiled an amended complaint filed in U.S. District Court alleging that Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, ultimately is responsible for pressuring a contractor and subcontractors to work more quickly.

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Wal-Mart said it would contest the allegation at an initial Jan. 7 court hearing.

The suit accuses Wal-Mart, Schneider Logistics Inc., which operates a Wal-Mart warehouse, and a pair of temporary employment agencies of forcing approximately 1,800 employees “to work long hours, under oppressive workplace conditions, for legally inadequate pay.”

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The facilities in Mira Loma, near Ontario, receive containers from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach and reship them to Wal-Mart distribution centers and stores around the country.

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“It has become increasingly clear that the ultimate liability for workplace violations rests squarely on the shoulders of Wal-Mart, and not just on the contractors and subcontractors that act as a buffer...,” said an attorney for the warehouse workers, Michael Rubin, in a conference call with reporters.

Schneider lawyer Doublas J. Farmer said the firm outsourced labor at the Wal-Mart complex to the temporary employee companies. They are “solely responsible” for how their warehouse employees are managed and paid, he said.

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Wal-Mart, in turn, said it had no control over Schneider. “Wal-Mart is Schneider’s customer,” said spokesman Dan Fogleman. “We have a set of business needs that we pay them to meet, just like any company might hire an accounting firm to do taxes or an advertising firm to help launch a new product.”

Schneider, he said, “manages their people completely indpendent of us.”

The use of contractors and subcontractors amounts to a ruse to blur Wal-Mart’s responsibility, said worker David Acosta, a named plaintiff in the lawsuit.

“They say they have nothing to do with this,” Acosta said in Spanish. “But, we do move Wal-Mart merchandise, the boxes say Wal-Mart, the containers say Wal-Mart...They are on top of the pyramid.”

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ALSO:

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Amazon fulfillment Center opens in San Bernardino

Inland Empire warehouse workers walk off the job, protest conditions


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