Five members of Congress — including two representatives whose districts include parts of Fontana — recently sent a letter to Secretary Marty Walsh of the Department of Labor and Secretary Pete Buttigieg of the Department of Transportation requesting additional protections for warehouse workers shouldering the burden of the national supply chain disruptions.
The letter was written by Congresswoman Norma J. Torres (CA-35) and Congressman Pete Aguilar (CA-31), both of whom are Democrats. It was also signed by Representatives Rosa DeLauro (CT-03), David Price (NC-04), and Mikie Sherrill (NJ-11).
“Most goods moved through the [L.A. and Long Beach] ports are funneled to warehouses in the Inland Empire, and we are concerned about the impact on those workers,” the lawmakers wrote. “Without careful planning, the decision to create a 24/7 work schedule at the ports may have unintended consequences at warehouses including dangerous conditions for local workers, many of whom are not unionized.”
“Many of these workers are hired as ‘temporary’ workers, sometimes for years on end. For example, 40 percent of temporary warehouse workers are immigrants, over 70 percent are Latino, and about 70 percent are under the age of 40,” the letter continued. “Many of these individuals are from low-income communities and we do not want them overlooked.”
In the letter, the lawmakers requested answers to the following questions regarding protections for local warehouse, shipping, and logistics workers:
• What is the Department of Labor doing to ensure temporary warehouse workers, especially those without a union, have safe working conditions? How is the Department working with the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health to accomplish these goals?
• Does the Department of Labor track complaints by geographic area or by industry made to the Wage and Hour Division? Have you seen an increase in complaints since the announced changes at the ports?
• What enforcement mechanisms does the Department of Labor use to ensure that warehouse workers are given necessities while on the job (ex: bathroom access, correct working temperature, etc.), and that safety measures are not being overlooked?
• When a state has a State OSHA Plan, what mechanisms does the Department use to ensure compliance with the state plan?
• Has OSHA used its concurrent authorities to ensure the safety of workers in California since the start of the pandemic?
• How is the Administration working to address the racial inequalities in the logistics industry? For example, 86 percent of logistics workers in Riverside and San Bernardino counties earn less than the basic living wage, where a majority of workers were either Black or Latino.
• How has the Department of Transportation worked to keep the Department of Labor involved in supply chain issues to ensure that workers are not being overburdened?
• Did the Department of Transportation consult with the Department of Labor on the best ways to ensure supply chain workers, specifically warehouse workers, are a priority? If so, how?
The Port of Los Angeles and Port of Long Beach handle 40 percent of the nation’s imports.