Update (September 2012): The Gilbert Co. was sold to NFI (National Distribution Centers) in 2011 and cited by OSHA for safety/health violations.
The Gilbert Company is a warehouse and distribution center located in Chino, California that specializes in services for the retail market, with majority of its employees paid minimum wage for dangerous work conditions. Employees conduct several types of work, ranging from wrapping to palletizing. Ana, a previous employee at The Gilbert Company who was hired via a temp agency, was required to work long shifts, as long as 15 hours a day, for only minimum wage, as well as undergo strenuous work duties, such as wrapping, labeling and truck loading. The working conditions Ana was put into were very demanding and exploitative, and as a result of this, she was injured on the job, after only working for the company for a mere month. Although she was only paid minimum wage for her job, she had to accept the payment due to the situation she was in with her family.
The accident affected her in a great deal, affecting her spinal column, shoulders, arms, as well as her sexual relations. The incident was a result of a wrapping accident; Ana was wrapping an order that was to come out quickly, but as she was wrapping, the plastic gave way and she fell backwards, injuring her back. Ana states that in order to prevent further injuries from occurring in the work place, and to improve working conditions, is to form a union and/or rid of staffing agencies; these agencies are the culprit for placing workers in appalling working conditions.
Immediately after the accident, Ana contacted a doctor, and he said that she could return to work after two days following the injury. The doctor didn’t give her any time to rest nor did he give her any time off from work to heal properly; he cleared her from any injuries and even said that she didn’t have any injuries. Because of this, she contacted an attorney where he sent her to an additional doctor whom conducted further examinations, telling her that her spine, back and shoulder are indeed injured. Ana was fortunate to contact a lawyer regarding her situation because she states that a person without an attorney will more than likely get fired without knowing their rights, which is why it is imperative to contact an attorney to seek their input, she states.
Following the accident, Ana contacted Warehouse Workers United (WWU) and is now a member of the organization. Ana knows a lot of workers under the same conditions as her, so to prevent them from being injured on the job, she has been working with the WWU informing workers what their rights are. Ana continues to fight for the warehouse workers rights, even if she becomes evicted from the country, she states, because she wants those who stay behind to have improved working conditions, fair wages, and benefits. The result of all this: workers that are placed in better conditions in the workplace will thus result in increased job satisfaction among employees.
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Marco worked at Gilbert West for approximately 9 months until he was seriously injured on the job. He was hired through a temp agency, after waiting about 10 days, before being placed at Gilbert West. Once there, Marco performed heavy work, such as unloading trailers; his work schedule usually varied between 7 and 9 hours per day. Marco’s injury happened during the last 45 minutes of a shift, when employees were told that they had to finish unloading a heavy load trailer. This is when a 1,200 pound pallet that he was working on gave way, injuring his neck, shoulders, 4 disks in his lower back, and caused a hernia, he also became diabetic as a result of these injuries. Marco states that the working conditions were often very dangerous, particularly from being around forklifts, and that there was a lot of pressure on the employees to get their jobs done quickly.
Despite the labor-intensive and demanding work, Marco was paid just $8 an hour, which, when combined with only being given 20 to 30 hours a week, was not enough to support his 3 daughters. After he was injured, Marco was sent by the company to a doctor where he received minor treatment, only to be sent back to work. Despite being sent back to work, his injury made the job impossible and was told that his supervisor would be in contact with him. It has now been a year and seven months since that incident and Marco has yet to receive a call from his former employer.
It was not until Marco contacted an attorney that he was able to see a different doctor. This new doctor administered an MRI and it was from this that the extent of his injuries were diagnosed; he has since been able to receive some disability benefits. Marco became aware of Warehouse Workers United and their movement from a neighbor who was visited by an organizer for the group. Marco notes that there are countless other workers in his same situation, even some that have died from their injuries. He feels that in order to prevent this trend from continuing, warehouse workers must unite themselves, speak up and fight for the formation of a union.
Marco shares his story with other workers still employed at various warehouses in the region to help inform them of what he has learned. He hopes that by doing this they will be able to protect themselves and avoid being placed in dangerous situations.