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Entries in Employees (2)

Friday
Oct052012

Calif. Walmart Employees Strike to Protest Treatment, Working Conditions

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(PICO RIVERA, Calif.) -- Evelin Cruz used to be terrified to speak  up at work. A department manager at Walmart in Pico Rivera, Calif., for the past eight and a half years, Cruz, 41, feared she would lose her job if she spoke up against perceived injustices.

“People were really tired that any time they would speak out against the pay, hours, how much they would work, that management would cut their hours or not give them a schedule,” said Cruz, who is one of thousands of members of Our Walmart, a labor organization backed by the United Food and Commercial Workers that defends Walmart workers’ rights, told ABC News. “The retaliation was just enough.”

On Thursday, about 30 employees from the Pico Rivera store, including Cruz, wielded signs that read “Stand Up, Live Better, Stop Retaliation” and “Stop Trying to Silence Us” and marched outside the store. At the same time, workers at eight other Walmart stores in California also protested working conditions and treatment.

It was the first-ever employee walk-out in the company’s 50 year history, said Dawn Le, a spokeswoman  for Making Change at Walmart, a coalition whose mission is to change the way Walmart conducts business.

“Everyone else has a union,” said Le. “Workers in every other country -- Japan, the U.K., Nicaragua, South Africa, Brazil, Argentina -- have been able to form a union, except the U.S. and Canada. We just don’t understand the double standard Walmart has. How come those in other countries get to have a voice, yet not in the U.S., its home country?”

Walmart spokesman Dan Fogleman disputed Le’s charges, claiming that most employees have “repeatedly rejected unionization. “They seem to recognize that Walmart has some of the best jobs in the retail industry -- good pay, affordable benefits and the chance for advancement,” he said in a telephone interview with ABC News.

Walmart and its practices have made the news a lot lately. In mid-September, warehouse workers in Southern California were on a 15-day strike that included a six-day, 50-mile pilgrimage for safe jobs. Around the same time, hundreds of people marched in Dallas and San Diego, demanding better work conditions.

On Monday, Chicago police dressed in riot gear arrested 17 peaceful protesters blocking the entrance to a warehouse operated by an outside contractor that supplies Walmart stores, in Elwood, Ill. The protestors were there to show support for workers who had been on strike since Sept. 15, the Chicago Sun Times reported.  What’s more, the company faces yet another sex discrimination lawsuit, filed  on behalf of 100,000 women in California and Tennessee.

According to Dan Schlademan, director of Making Change at Walmart, Walmart employees across the U.S. have recently filed more than 20 charges of unfair labor practices with the National Labor Relations Board. "Workers find how Walmart has tried to retaliate by cutting their hours and not scheduling them for certain shifts when they tried to speak out, and they’re tired of it,” he said.

But the $16 billion dollar company sees it differently, arguing that the California rally was simply a “publicity stunt by the UFCW to seek media attention in order to further their political agenda and financial objectives,” said Fogleman.

Cruz, who makes $13.20 an hour -- up from $7.40 when she started -- begs to differ. “We just wanted to be treated like humans, not robots. We do have health insurance, but in most cases, you’re not even making enough to live on, let alone take anyone to the hospital.”

And though she worries about losing her job, she didn’t see another option but to voice  her anger. “We are still worried that they might retaliate,” said Cruz. “We know exactly how they operate. They wait until you feel confident, or put down your guard, and then they come after you one way or another. But that’s how tired we are of what’s going on in the stores.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jun062012

DEA: American Airlines Workers Smuggled Cocaine into Miami, New York

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- In the latest arrests of U.S. airport workers on drug smuggling charges, authorities charged that two rings of nearly 50 corrupt employees at Puerto Rico's main airport smuggled thousands of kilograms of cocaine onto commercial flights bound for mainland U.S. cities, including Miami, Orlando and New York.

One ring, allegedly led by Maribel Rodriguez Fragoso, a.k.a. La Flaca or "the Skinny Woman," was made up of workers for a baggage handling and maintenance company at San Juan's Luis Munoz Marin International Airport, and allegedly brought cocaine-stuffed backpacks and suitcases into cities up and down the East Coast between 2010 and 2012. The other, allegedly led by American Airlines employee Wilfredo Rodriguez Rosado, included American Airlines workers and is charged with smuggling more than 9,000 kilos of the white powder between 2000 and 2009.

The DEA arrested 36 people Wednesday morning, and unsealed indictments charging a total of 45 individuals with conspiracy to distribute cocaine and violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). In addition to arrests in Puerto Rico, a DEA official says three American Airlines employees were arrested in the mainland U.S. -- two in Miami and one in Dallas.

The DEA alleges members of the La Flaca ring used their company's baggage vehicles to take suitcases stuffed with cocaine and place them directly on commercial flights. The ring would also allegedly bring cocaine into airport employee-only restrooms, where ring members would hand backpacks full of cocaine to drug couriers who would then board planes. The ring allegedly shipped cocaine to Boston, Philadelphia, New York and Orlando, among other cities.

The American Airlines ring was disrupted by the DEA in 2009 in an operation called Heavy Cargo. Twenty-three people, including nine American Airlines employees, were indicted, and Rodriguez and 21 others pled guilty. According to authorities, members of the ring transported suitcases full of cocaine from the American Airlines cargo area and onto American Airlines flights bound for such cities as Newark, New York, Miami and Orlando. The DEA Wednesday announced indictments of 20 more individuals who were allegedly involved in the smuggling ring.

The arrests come 13 years after the DEA's Operation Ramp Rats, in which the agency busted 59 individuals, most of them American Airlines employees, for alleged involvement in drug smuggling at Miami International and JFK. While some workers were acquitted, dozens were convicted or pled guilty. More recently, the DEA brought drug smuggling charges against airline or airport workers in 2007 and 2010.

"DEA will continue to dismantle these organizations that think they can blatantly use legitimate entities to carry out their smuggling operations," said DEA Acting Special Agent in Charge of the Caribbean Division, Pedro Janer.

DEA Deputy Administrator Thomas M. Harrigan said Wednesday, "Americans have a right to expect the highest integrity from those they entrust with their safety, and DEA is committed to protecting that trust. Wednesday's arrests at one of the nation's busiest airports reflect our relentless commitment to working with our partners to aggressively fight drug trafficking, not only at our nation's points of entry, but at source, transit, and arrival zones throughout the world."

The defendants in both cases are facing a minimum term of 10 years to life if convicted on all charges.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio