[Marxism] Warehousing: A Thriving Industry Built on Low-Paid Temps

Dan DiMaggio dan.dimaggio at gmail.com
Fri Aug 27 11:01:35 MDT 2010

The NYTimes has an important article today on conditions facing
warehouse workers in Chicago, who have been turned into an army of
temps with no benefits, no vacation, no sick days, and extremely low
pay. I have heard they are the same in the Inland Empire region of
California, home to what I believe is the world's largest collection
of warehouse space. This industry didn't used to be this way - my dad
was a warehouse worker until the early 1990s, a member of the
Teamsters, and he made a decent wage, got 4 weeks of vacation a year,
sick days, family health/vision/dental insurance, etc. He told me that
the main factor in radicalizing him was "seeing a good job turned into
a bad one." There are efforts to organize warehousing by UE in
Chicago, through its Warehouse Workers United campaign -


August 26, 2010
A Thriving Industry Built on Low-Compensated Temp Workers
Tory Moore worked at the same packaged-food warehouse in Kankakee for
six years, but he was denied a loan and apartment rentals after being
told he did not have a real job.

Mr. Moore, 37, was a “perma-temp,” one of thousands of workers in the
Chicago area’s massive warehouse complexes who are laid off and
rehired every few months by temporary-staffing agencies.

He said he never received paid vacation days, holidays, sick days or
affordable insurance. He was fired in December, he said, for rallying
other workers to demand better conditions.

The Chicago area is widely described as the country’s largest inland
“dry port,” where the nation’s six major railroads converge with
packed shipping containers from China and other far-flung locations.
The containers are moved from train to truck at sprawling intermodal
facilities, then hauled to hundreds of warehouses where they are
unloaded by hand so the goods can be distributed to retail stores
across the country. In early August, a new $2 billion intermodal
facility was opened in Joliet, where Union Pacific trains bring goods
from Western seaports and factories.

The area’s dry port industry relies on about 150,000 workers. This is
one of the area’s few booming blue-collar industries, since most of
Chicago’s famous steel mills, meatpacking plants and factories have
moved away in search of cheaper labor or have slashed work forces
through automation. But unlike those earlier jobs, which once promised
a secure middle-class future and a comfortable retirement, warehousing
positions are largely transitory and provide low pay, few benefits and
little hope for advancement.

“In the old days, blue-collar workers had unions and contracts
protecting them,” said Dr. James Wolfinger, a DePaul University
assistant professor of history specializing in labor. “Now they’re
essentially independent contractors with no room to move forward, no
pay raises, no benefits.”


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