The Warehouse Workers United fight, which I've chronicled previously in this blog, extends far beyond the Inland Empire. As I've previously mentioned, Warehouse Workers United is in fact sponsored by several large union organizations, and our fair area appears to be their battleground of choice. Because of our interlocking transportation system and our proximity to Los Angeles (without all of the traffic headaches that you can find out west), this is an ideal place for warehouses - and warehouse protests.
In its June 3 press release, Warehouse Workers United aims to carry a message to national businesses:
Warehouse workers are calling on the national retailers to help end the recession in the Inland Empire by providing good paying jobs, ending the system of temp employment, providing access to affordable health care, and allowing workers to choose to form a union.
But not necessarily in that order. Jack Katzanek of the Riverside Press-Enterprise notes that unionization is the primary goal:
Seventy years ago, America's recovery from the Great Depression coincided with the start of the biggest growth in union membership the country has ever seen.
Labor leaders believe those two events -- an economy that underwent a severe beating and employees coming out of it who sought the clout of a union -- can happen once again.
Is this truly an opportunity for a return to the unionization levels of yesteryear, or will the competition from other countries in a global economy continue to put a damper on union organizing efforts? Time will tell, but the warehouse case is an interesting case, since even if the goods are manufactured in China or Bangladesh or wherever, you still need to ship the goods to the consumers. So as long as demand for the goods continues, warehouses aren't going to go away.
The Press-Enterprise also talks about the choice of the Inland Empire as the battleground:
Warehouse Workers United was a creation of umbrella labor federation Change to Win. Some of the country's largest unions, including the Teamsters and the United Food and Commercial Workers, are among the unions affiliated with Change to Win.
Greg Denier, director of communications for Change to Win, said the Inland area was chosen as the launch point for the warehouse movement because of its huge concentration of distribution centers.
"From the macroeconomic standpoint, the Inland Empire is the linchpin of the global supply chain," Denier said. "Some of the largest corporations in the world operate distribution centers in the Inland Empire. Only, a temp firm appears on the paychecks."