Life and Death on the Warehouse Floor

I felt alone. I thought it was only happening to me. Then, this past April, when courageous women I used to work with came forward with stories of sexism and gender discrimination at the Verizon warehouse, I got the courage to say #MeToo.

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I started working at the warehouse in Memphis, Tennessee when I was 19 years old. Back then, it was operated by New Breed Logistics, a company that set a grueling pace and allowed horror stories to unfold in its facilities. The conditions were so terrible that I suffered two miscarriages; my first was so severe that I had to put the fetus in a Ziploc bag right there on the warehouse floor and take it to the hospital. When I was pregnant again at 29 years old, New Breed was no longer in charge, but XPO Logistics, which purchased the company, repeatedly ignored my doctor’s note requiring lighter work—and I collapsed on warehouse floor and miscarried again.

Others miscarried, too, under the conditions. This summer, 19-year-old Ceedria Walker miscarried at the same Verizon XPO facility, at the same young age I was hired at. Her OB-GYN had penned a letter saying she could not lift anything above 15 pounds, but her supervisor continued to assign her to carry boxes that weighed up to 45 pounds.

You might not have heard of the $15 billion global logistics giant XPO Logistics, but you probably have heard of the companies like Verizon, Disney and Cummins that XPO workers package and distribute products for. Now you’ll also be hearing a lot more from workers like me who are speaking up to tell the story of our employer’s abusive treatment.

The work at XPO warehouses is carried on the shoulders of black women who are sexually harassed, bullied and discriminated against, and it’s time for us to come forward so their clients fully understand the conditions their products are handled in. I’m sure I am not alone. The conditions inside are dangerous even if you’re not pregnant. We have been spoken down to, shoved, grabbed and kissed by our superiors. Temperatures soar to triple digits, but workers that speak up about the heat are only given popsicles; one woman, Linda Neal, even died on the warehouse floor.

Most of the workers on the floors of XPO warehouses that dot the outskirts of Memphis are black women working to support our families while clocking seemingly endless shifts. I worked in that warehouse seven days a week, 14 to 16 hours a day, lifting heavy boxes. My supervisor set the pace and told me to keep lifting, or else I’d lose my job; when I handed my boss the doctors’ note requiring light duty assignments and 8-hour workday during the pregnancy after my first miscarriage, he told me to get an abortion. Ultimately, they told me I could leave after 8 hours, but I’d receive a point every time I did so—and at XPO, when you receive a certain number of points, you get fired.

When XPO took over from New Breed, it inherited New Breed’s issues, including the legacy of a $1.5 million fine and an order from the EEOC to curb abuse. Instead, XPO managers continue to engage in harassment and discrimination. Verizon is responsible, too; they have been the customer at the warehouse for at least a decade and turned a blind eye for far too long. It is time XPO and its corporate clients are held accountable, and fix the problems once and for all.

This month, workers at XPO’s Verizon facility led a delegation to demand changes. Community organizations active in the #MeToo movement, Tennessee Representative Steve Cohen and Memphis NAACP joined the delegation to deliver a letter calling on XPO to formally investigate and clean house. Rather than listening, management locked them out of the building.

This can’t go on. We won’t be silenced, and we won’t be ignored. Dozens of women who also have worked or are working at XPO are pulling back the curtain on the rampant sexual harassment, gender and pregnancy discrimination on the warehouse floors. Many of us have filed complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

We are demanding our stories be acknowledged and we are demanding change. #TimesUp, Verizon—and #TimesUp, XPO.

Chasisty Bee is a former XPO Logistics employee at the Verizon warehouse in Memphis, Tennessee. She is the proud mother of six children, including the two she miscarried while at the Memphis Verizon facility.

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Comments

  1. James Daniels says:

    I think people should change from Verizon and criminal charges should be filed. I am going to change from Verizon. That is things that happen in third world countries.

  2. Robert Baxter says:

    This is terrible They need to hold themselves accountable for what they did Most of the supervisors that are in charge of this should be fired

  3. That’s way it is…They don’t care..UPS same way it’s sad

  4. larry cook says:

    vote union

  5. Elizabeth Howley says:

    Hey girly! I am here with you! I stand next to You all on this issue with XPO! I got fired after 7 years on some hear say stuff. Never in a million years would I thought to be fired or to see or to go through things like this at a job. I pray everyone stands and fights with us on this. I agree this can not keep happening, something has to be done! If you need me get a hold of one of our team members and I will be there to agree and stand with you!

  6. Lakeisha Nelson says:

    Chasity thank you for courageous stance. #metoo I’ve been there for a while now and I can honestly say they’ve put a mask on the issues. Halloween isn’t year round sooner or later that mask will fall off. When that mask falls off they will not be able to hide anymore. With that being said Verizon and XPO I know you can hear us now!!!!

  7. Billy G Parrish Sr. says:

    I worked for that crooked company as a picker and fork lift operator. I was there for three years and what I saw would make your hair stand on end. The hazard working conditions were everywhere. When OSHA would come in all they did was walk thru, mention a few minor things and then go out and have drinks and dinner with management. They pushed their workers to the limit. Hired inexperienced fork lift operators. Put them in high risk situations where very heavy objects were racket at 60 ft. A lot of dropped product and great expense. We had a cold room where if the Temp would go too high product would self ignite. The list goes on and on. Sue the ell out of them if you can.

  8. Chuck Smyser says:

    Chasisty Bee – Sorry to hear of all your problems. I really do feel sorry for everything everyone has gone through. My only question is, why hasn’t everyone signed up with the Teamsters Union. Maybe all you thought the Teamsters was, was a union for truck drivers. They are that, but they also will back you all the way on warehouse problems like you all are having. When you are having a problem, all you have to do, is tell your Union Steward what the problem is. They will talk with the employer, and if they don’t resolve the problem, they will bring the Teamster Representatives in and get things straightened out. I promise you they will get results.

    I am sending you this message, because the Teamsters Union sent out e-mails telling us about the problems you all are having. See what I mean about getting results? Here we are talking to you, to let you know people all over this Great Country is hearing your problems, and trying to let you know we are hoping you will at least talk with your local Teamster Officials, and they can do you some good to get things straightened out with XPO.

  9. Jermaine T says:

    I feel sorry for those ladies that work in horrible conditions. Supervisors think they are God but are employees as well. Something should be done about management and the company’s supervisors.

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