More than 50 warehouse workers, union representatives and Newark Mayor Ras Baraka rallied about being overworked and underpaid after a newly released report by Warehouse Workers Standup showed employees face constant pressure to meet the demands of faster delivery in unsafe work environments.
“Thanks to the Port of Newark, our highway system, and our strategic location it’s easy access to some of the biggest consumer markets in the country. Our warehouse distribution industry is booming,” said Alberto Arroyo, co-manager of Workers United. “Thousands of warehouse workers face a deepening crisis in low wages, unsafe work conditions and unstable part-time and temporary employment.”
The rally comes in the wake of two recent incidents in New Jersey, one that left a warehouse worker dead.
“Just last week, dozens of workers at Amazon’s massive Robbinsville warehouse were sickened after a robot punctured a canister of bear repellent, sending 24 people to the hospital,” said Arroyo. “In October, a warehouse worker from Perth Amboy died after falling 35 feet from a cargo lift — terrible.”
Warehouse workers say big name companies are making a profit off their lack of safety.
“One of my co-workers lost a finger because the machine was not working, so his finger got stuck and he lost half his finger. Sometimes the guys have to climb up stairs and they’re not secure — they don’t work properly — so they fall,” said warehouse worker Marirmen Molina.
Molina says she fears her safety is at risk if shipment demands increase and working conditions worsen.
“I experienced it with my mom. She used to work at a perfume factory, and the machine was faster then she was and she lost movement to her hands,” she said. “The company said it was her fault, because if she knew she wasn’t faster than the machine she should’ve have done it.”
In order improve conditions, workers called on the state to implement a code of conduct to ultimately change how they treat employees. It includes having a $15 minimum wage, safer work conditions and more full-time jobs.
Wednesday the labor commissioner released a statement saying that he supports warehouse workers and the fight to ensure safe working conditions.