Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Local Warehouse Workers Call for End of ‘Abuse and Mistreatment’

Posted By on Tue, Oct 2, 2018 at 10:22 AM

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Workers in a warehouse here are fed up with their poor working conditions, and Monday they took action.

Employees at XPO Logistics Verizon warehouse delivered a letter to management, putting them on notice for health and safety issues in the work environment, misconduct, discrimination, and sexual harassment.

The letter, signed by the Memphis NAACP, City Councilwoman Patrice Robinson, Memphis Feminist Coalition, and about nine other groups in the community, read, in part: “It is clear that XPO exhibits a consistent toxic culture that runs contrary to its stated policies and practices.

"As community leaders and women’s rights advocates engaged in legal and policy work to fight against sexual harassment and are active in the Times Up and Me Too movements, we are deeply concerned and troubled with the behavior of XPO Logistics.

Therefore, we are calling for a joint meeting with Jacobs, the executive board, and XPO’s customers in the supply chain (like Verizon, Cummins, Nike Golf, and Disney) to discuss the company’s inexcusable actions and what steps each will take to stop the abuse and mistreatment of its workers.”

The letter also demanded transparency in the investigation of the working conditions and the death of Linda Neal who died at XPO’s Verizon warehouse after passing out on the job last year. Workers attributed her death to the conditions in the warehouse.

“My friend and co-worker lost her life on the job because of the inexcusable inactions of XPO,” Lakeisha Nelson, worker at XPO’s Verizon facility, said. “Every day, XPO workers like me endure unfair, inhumane treatment and are exposed to threats to our physical and mental health. We’re standing up in the warehouses because we are human beings with value and worth and we’ve had enough.”

Monday the workers, joined by 9th District Congressman Steve Cohen and State Representatives Jessie Chism, and London Lamar, as well as Shelby County Commissioner Eddie Jones and well-known Memphis activist Earle Fisher, attempted to hand-deliver the letter to management, but were denied and locked out.

Afterward, in a press conference, Cohen said he was “disappointed” in the management's lack of cooperation, calling the scene “disturbing.”

“I was very disappointed they [XPO management] wouldn’t accept the letter, which is an easy way to deal with this issue,” Cohen said. “I was disappointed they wouldn’t allow me to go in and talk to them and give them that letter. It shows a disrespect for public officials, for you as my constituents but also as workers.

"And, it also shows an inability to understand public relations and the fact that they work within a framework that includes the Department of Labor and the United States government, that they should have an interest in working with — the State of Tennessee as well as their State Representatives here. It’s been a disturbing scene to me, I don’t feel good about XPO Logistics. I didn’t feel good when I came out here and now I feel that the allegations that have been made have been confirmed to me in my mind, in the callous way they’ve treated us and treated me.”

Deirdre Malone, president of the Memphis NAACP, echoed that sentiment, saying that she believes the claims of sexual harassment made by workers.

“It’s intolerable for them to work in a plant like this,” Malone said. “We believe the workers. We believe that sexual harassment does exist at this facility. We believe the workers. That’s the reason we’re here today and we’re going to let them know that we’re not going to tolerate it.”

This action comes after a group of the workers filed a complaint against XPO with the Tennessee Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for extremely hot working condition last month.

Employees said they experienced “instances of extreme heat leading to dizziness, dehydration, and fainting,” according to that complaint. During a three-day period, the heat index near the warehouse exceeded OSHA’s “extreme caution” threshold during the majority of working hours, workers said.

In June, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed complaints on behalf of two female employees at XPO’s Disney warehouse here for claims of sexual harassment and discrimination.

During the spring and early summer, current and former female employees at XPO warehouses statewide filed a total of 11 complaints with the EEOC for reports of sexual harassment including unwanted pushing, shoving, grabbing, and kissing by supervisors. Workers also reported that they faced retaliation for reporting harassment.

XPO Logistics, a $15 billion company, packages and distributes products for major brands, such as, Verison, Nike, Disney, and Home Depot.

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