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Suit amended to add Wal-Mart as warehouse plaintiff

In a continuation of the labor-related battles that have been waging between Wal-Mart and its Southern California warehouse workers, the workers have named the superstore as a defendant in a federal wage-theft suit. Although the workers at the facilities in California and Illinois have filed complaints against the warehouse operators in the past, this is the first time that the big-box store has been named directly as a party in the suits.

Until this point, only the retailer's subcontractors have been accused of causing wage problems among the workforce. Attorneys for the big-box store argue that Wal-Mart's company name does not appear on the workers' paychecks, but representatives for the workers say that fact is immaterial. The wage and labor violations occurring at each warehouse can be traced back directly to Wal-Mart and its discriminatory policies.

Wal-Mart outsources some of its distribution locations to save money. The firms who run those warehouses hire low-wage temporary workers to fill permanent positions. Those workers rarely get the benefits they deserve due to the underhanded business strategy used by the retailer and its associated subcontractors.

The newly submitted court documents are amendments to an existing case that claims wage fraud on the part of the subcontractors. Six workers claim they were paid less than minimum wage at the company's Riverside, California facility. Those workers were also asked to work in dangerously hot conditions. They also claim that some people were fired or retaliated against when they attempted to push for changes at the facility.

Worker advocates say that Wal-Mart, as the top entity in the supply chain, is ultimately responsible for the mistreatment of its workers through the subcontractors. The retailer is pushing for higher production and distribution, which leads to unacceptable working conditions because companies cut corners. Workers claim that they were forced to work 16-hour days, for example, without overtime or other accommodations.

The California labor commissioner has already filed citations against the firms that employ the temporary workers because of their poor treatment of their employees.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Warehouse workers move to name Wal-Mart in wage-theft lawsuit," Kathleen Miles & Dave Jamieson, Nov. 30, 2012.

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