By Sarah Ahmed
Workers at the Lifetech Resources facility in Moorpark, California must wait long periods of time before being allowed bathroom or water breaks and can be ‘laid off’ when they complain to management, resulting in workers going weeks without paid work. The facility, which is mostly staffed by women, produces cosmetics like hair and skin products.
Workers are not allowed to have water bottles on the production line, and have to ask permission to be able to take water or bathroom breaks even if they are pregnant or need to take medication. “It’s our life they’re playing with. I don’t think that’s right. I think we should have rights to drink water any time, not wait around until they get someone to get you replaced.”
The workers’ hours are disorganized and may change from day to day. If a worker starts at 6am but is working on a production line alongside workers who started at 7am, they can sometimes wait five hours for a lunch break, “I have appointments but it’s hard to plan when you don’t know when you’re going in, that’s what I hate. When they change my hours, why can’t they have me just go in at the same time [everyday]?”
When workers raise their grievances with management, they often face retaliation and may be ‘laid off’ for weeks at a time, where they exist in uncertainty on when they can return to work. One worker went without work for a month after asking for a water break to take her medication. These frequent ‘layoffs’ are extremely difficult for workers financially. “It affects me a lot, because this week I didn’t get a paycheck. I have bills, I have a kid to support, I have to buy food…but they don’t care.”
The workers, who contract through temp agency Express Employment Professionals, can never expect to get consistent work, as the company keeps a large queue of temp workers waiting for paid work, allowing them to exploit workers even further. “You get laid off one day and the next day go back to work and the next day you’re laid off?”
The worker said that she had to wait a month to get paid for a sick day despite having a doctor’s note. “I was calling the office, speaking to managers, asking why I haven’t been paid for those days? I gave him my doc’s notes. It’s ridiculous that I have to go through this to get paid.”
On the main supervisor overseeing the entire plant, the worker said, “The main guy there yells and screams and throws things around, and cusses and everything,” and tries to intimidate the staff, which is mostly women. “His name is Les. He just goes, ‘What the fuck are you guys doing? You’re not paying attention!’ One day he just came and tossed a table.”
The worker correspondent summed up the situation: “I see this factory, they don’t care about people. They just care about production.”
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