New Labor, a New Jersey-based organization with worker centers in New Brunswick and Lakewood, issued the report New Jersey’s Supply Chain Pain: Warehouse and Logistics Work Under Walmart and Other Big-Box Retailers on May 17.
The state's container port, the Port of Newark/Elizabeth, is the second largest in the nation, moving more than 80 million metric tons of cargo and 3 million containers in a year. Much of these goods are moved through warehouses near N.J. Turnpike Exit 8A in South Brunswick and Cranbury.
The industry's largest customers, according to New Labor, are the big-box chains like Target and Walmart.
The report said that the state's logistics industry -- "a complex network of establishments that that move consumer goods quickly and efficiently onward toward the shelves of stores across the country" -- pays workers an average of $8.26 an hour, with more than two-thirds making less than $8 an hour.
The report also said that temporary workers made more than $1 less than permanent workers, were less protected by workplace rules and faced greater degrees of discrimination.
"Three-quarters of agency workers surveyed did not know with whom to speak in the event that they were injured on the job and had to file a workers’ compensation claim," the report said. "The biggest source of confusion seemed to be related to whether the agency or the company where they worked would be the party responsible for helping them. As a result, agency workers are 50 percent more likely than direct hire employees to be confused about the workman’s compensation claim procedure."
The report added that "4.8 percent of agency workers who were asked about whether there was discrimination at their workplace complained that agency workers were treated worse than direct hire workers."
Wal-Mart officials disputed the report.
"As the largest retailer, of course there’s going to be brand name goods and fresh food that pass through various warehouses that wind up on our shelves as well as the shelves of other warehouses," Walmart spokesman Dan Fogleman told The Star Ledger. "For the authors of the study to single us out as somehow influencing the working conditions of an entire industry is irresponsible and brings into question the credibility of the entire study."