Warehouse Workers for Justice

The United Electrical Workers (UE) through their non-profit arm, UE Research and Education Fund (UEREF) created Warehouse Workers for Justice in 2008 to the exploit opportunities labor unions see for organizing the nation’s largest warehouse districts in Illinois and California.

A disproportional percentage of goods pass through these warehouses bound for store fronts across the country, and unions view them as key “choke points.”  Unions hope that by targeting these distribution channels not only can they organize warehouses workers, but more importantly, they can organize strikes and cut off the flow of goods during key periods hurting retailers as well.

Chicago, in particular, is the third largest container port in the world and largest intermodal container handler in the Western Hemisphere, with nearly 150,000 warehouse workers in the region. Will County, southwest of Chicago, is home to the largest intermodal warehouse district in the nation with more than 300 warehouses and 30,000 workers.

The SEIU and UFCW, in particular, have relied upon the WWJ, and its California counterpart WWU, to provide another angle of attack when executing their comprehensive attack campaigns against major retail brands across the country.

Founding

Labor officials seeking to expand their membership and profile in Greater Chicago were given a unique opportunity in 2008.  Republic Windows and Doors abruptly announced that it was closing at the end of the year, due in part to the recession that was sweeping the country.  At least 250 workers occupied the ...

Funding

With few exceptions, many worker centers are directly affiliated to one or more established unions.  The union often provides top-down campaign direction, staff support, media outreach, and overall financial support for the worker center.  WWJ’s founder, the UE, acts as it primary fiscal sponsor.  WWJ is staffed by UE ...

Key Alliances

WWJ receives organizing, staff and grassroots assistance from the UE, and financial aid from the UEREF.  Similar to other worker centers UE is exploiting the operational advantages of both the 501c5 and 501c3 model.  UE staff can run traditional union organizing campaigns when it suits them.  Those same staff members ...

Size and Scope

WWJ focuses on the Chicago market.  This market is critical to the national distribution of goods for dozens of national retail brands. By working in conjunction with other worker centers, WWJ is a critical piece of running a comprehensive, national “death-of-a-thousand cuts” campaign.   WWJ protests have ranged in size from ...

Tactics

WWJ has spearheaded at least four class-action lawsuits and eight legal actions against third-party companies operating warehouses in the Chicago area, as well as companies whose products are distributed through the logistics hub.  However, there is little evidence that any of the legal actions brought by WWJ have been successful ...