By Sarah Ahmed
At Waterway Plastics, workers are constantly threatened with being fired, and do not receive any breaks when they work the night shift. Waterway Plastics in Oxnard, California assembles materials for jacuzzis and pools.
The night shift at Waterway Plastics is staffed with 20 workers, which is less than a third of the workers that work during the first shift. While California has laws requiring employers to provide workers with breaks, this has not stopped Waterway Plastics from requiring night-shift workers to work a full eight-hour shift without bathroom breaks. A night-shift worker said, “They do this because they want more production. When I go to the bathroom, I get in trouble. That’s why sometimes I don’t go, so I won’t have any problems.”
Waterway Plastics expects a lot from the workers for low pay, and frequently asks workers how many parts they have assembled per hour: “They tell us to work harder, to move faster, even though we already are.”
Workers at Waterway Plastics work on an assembly line to assemble plastic parts together, and then pack and label the item. Each packed item carries the initials of the worker who assembled the part. One worker said, “If an item is not built correctly, they’ll know who to blame by looking at the initials on the label.”
The company has a high turnover, and frequently fires workers and hires more workers each day to replace them. Many workers quit because of the harsh treatment. The human resources (HR) department at Waterway Plastics exists only to defend the company’s exploitation of workers, since workers who file complaints to HR can also be fired.
A worker has already lost count of how many workers she has seen fired since she started less than a month ago: “If you make a mistake while assembling a piece, they fire you. Same thing if you show up late or call out sick. That’s it.”
The worker tearfully explained, “It’s humiliating.”
Management at Waterway Plastics fired a worker after she had difficulty finding a caretaker for her autistic son, which resulted in her being late for work. Another worker was locked out of the building after arriving late, and relied on another worker to let her into the building.
One of the shift managers, Sergio, is extremely chauvinistic and displays favoritism towards younger women workers, allowing them breaks, while not allowing older women to take breaks. “I want more respect for the workers and for them not to demand so much work from us.”
The worker expressed her solidarity with her coworkers, saying, “I already want to leave [Waterway], but I stay for the others. Because they take advantage of a lot of people and I don’t want to leave them by themselves.”
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