Mars Wrigley warehouse workers say they’re getting yelled at for washing their hands and wiping down equipment amid an $8 billion boom for candy this Halloween



a person wearing a costume: Inside the battle to get hazard pay at a Mars Wrigley's warehouse. Hollis Johnson/Business Insider


© Hollis Johnson/Business Insider
Inside the battle to get hazard pay at a Mars Wrigley’s warehouse. Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

  • Workers at an Illinois distribution center for candy maker Mars Wrigley have been demanding the company provide hazard pay and improve safety protocols during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Mars Wrigley produces popular candies like Twix, Skittles, and M&M’s. Ahead of this Halloween, the National Confectioners Association reported a 25% increase in chocolate sales.
  • Michael Samuel, a former worker at the Mars warehouse in Illinois, told Business Insider supervisors reprimanded him for taking extra time to wipe down equipment. Samuel helped get 100 signatures in a petition for safer working conditions before being fired on October 1, he said.
  • Mars declined to comment on the claims regarding working conditions in its Joliet, Illinois, warehouse because it said the workers are employed by third-party firms XPO Logistics and DHL. 
  • “They are not employed by Mars Incorporated,” said Caitlin Kemper, external affairs manager at Mars, regarding Samuel and his colleagues. 
  • DHL refuted “any allegations of unfair labor practices,” but declined to comment further due to an ongoing NLRB complaint regarding the Joliet warehouse. XPO Logistics spokesperson Joe Checkler said the company’s “primary focus is the health and safety of our employees.”
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Michael Samuel said he used to spend 10 hours a day, seven days a week loading trucks with popular Halloween candy like Snickers, M&M’s, and Twix — until October 1, when he was fired from his job at a Mars Wrigley distribution center. 

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Samuel, 45, said he joined the Mars distribution center near Chicago in 2017 as a forklift operator, having been hired through the logistics firm DHL. 

Samuel was part of a group of workers from the warehouse in Joliet, Illinois, organizing to demand hazard pay and better working conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic. Essential employees of many large companies have fought for better benefits since the pandemic broke out earlier this year.

As shoppers are set to spend $8 billion on Halloween this year, including 25% more on candy purchases than in recent years, some workers warn of a nightmare within the Mars distribution center.

Samuel said he had been reprimanded by supervisors for taking bathroom breaks to wash his hands and spending extra time wiping down equipment. 



a group of people standing next to a sign: Mars Wrigley workers demonstrate outside company headquarters on September 4. Courtesy of Warehouse Workers for Justice


© Courtesy of Warehouse Workers for Justice
Mars Wrigley workers demonstrate outside company headquarters on September 4. Courtesy of Warehouse Workers for Justice

Because logistics companies DHL and XPO Logistics hired all workers in the Illinois warehouse where Samuel worked, Mars declined to comment on the claims detailed in this story. “They are not employed by Mars Incorporated,” said Caitlin Kemper, external affairs manager at Mars. A DHL spokesperson said the firm refutes “any allegations of unfair labor practices,” and XPO Logistics spokesperson Joe Checkler said the company’s “primary focus is the health and safety of our employees.”

But Samuel said after his experience working at the Mars plant, he’ll be buying candy from someplace

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Mars Wrigley warehouse workers are calling for safe working conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic



a person wearing a costume: Inside the battle to get hazard pay at a Mars Wrigley's warehouse. Hollis Johnson/Business Insider


© Hollis Johnson/Business Insider
Inside the battle to get hazard pay at a Mars Wrigley’s warehouse. Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

  • Workers at an Illinois distribution center for candy maker Mars Wrigley have been demanding the company provide hazard pay and improve safety protocols during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Mars Wrigley produces popular candies like Twix, Skittles, and M&M’s. Ahead of this Halloween, the National Confectioners Association reported a 25% increase in chocolate sales.
  • Michael Samuel, a former worker at the Mars warehouse in Illinois, told Business Insider supervisors reprimanded him for taking extra time to wipe down equipment. Samuel helped get 100 signatures in a petition for safer working conditions before being fired on October 1, he said.
  • Mars declined to comment on the claims regarding working conditions in its Joliet, Illinois, warehouse because it said the workers are employed by third-party firms XPO Logistics and DHL. 
  • “They are not employed by Mars Incorporated,” said Caitlin Kemper, external affairs manager at Mars, regarding Samuel and his colleagues. 
  • DHL refuted “any allegations of unfair labor practices,” but declined to comment further due to an ongoing NLRB complaint regarding the Joliet warehouse. XPO Logistics spokesperson Joe Checkler said the company’s “primary focus is the health and safety of our employees.”
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Michael Samuel said he used to spend 10 hours a day, seven days a week loading trucks with popular Halloween candy like Snickers, M&M’s, and Twix — until October 1, when he was fired from his job at a Mars Wrigley distribution center. 

Loading...

Load Error

Samuel, 45, said he joined the Mars distribution center near Chicago in 2017 as a forklift operator, having been hired through the logistics firm DHL. 

Samuel was part of a group of workers from the warehouse in Joliet, Illinois, organizing to demand hazard pay and better working conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic. Essential employees of many large companies have fought for better benefits since the pandemic broke out earlier this year.

As shoppers are set to spend $8 million on Halloween this year, including 25% more on candy purchases than in recent years, some workers warn of a nightmare within the Mars distribution center.

Samuel said he had been reprimanded by supervisors for taking bathroom breaks to wash his hands and spending extra time wiping down equipment. 



a group of people standing next to a sign: Mars Wrigley workers demonstrate outside company headquarters on September 4. Courtesy of Warehouse Workers for Justice


© Courtesy of Warehouse Workers for Justice
Mars Wrigley workers demonstrate outside company headquarters on September 4. Courtesy of Warehouse Workers for Justice

Because logistics companies DHL and XPO Logistics hired all workers in the Illinois warehouse where Samuel worked, Mars declined to comment on the claims detailed in this story. “They are not employed by Mars Incorporated,” said Caitlin Kemper, external affairs manager at Mars. A DHL spokesperson said the firm refutes “any allegations of unfair labor practices,” and XPO Logistics spokesperson Joe Checkler said the company’s “primary focus is the health and safety of our employees.”

But Samuel said after his experience working at the Mars plant, he’ll be buying candy from someplace

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Disney workers lose jobs, free college education vanishes

ORLANDO — Madeline “Madi” Portes keeps a bucket list full of things like visiting Paris and taking violin lessons. But No. 1 was always to get her college degree, and she never forgot that as the years went by.

Portes, of Clermont, failed several times to finish her schooling, coming from poor roots and unable to afford her classes as a working adult. Maybe this was her shot at age 61 to finally get it done when Walt Disney Co. announced in 2018 it would pay tuition upfront — and books, too — for its hourly employees.

Known as Disney Aspire, it was one of the most generous employer education programs in the country. Disney vowed to invest $150 million over five years to help lift workers out of poverty by fully funding their education. The program got started as the company reportedly saved at least $1.6 billion in the first year from the GOP corporate tax cuts.

What once felt like winning the lottery is now heartbreak. Walt Disney Co. last month revealed it was ending Aspire for at least some of the 28,000 workers it is laying off across the U.S. because of the coronavirus pandemic. About 15,500 of those employees are in Orlando.

For some, the decision cuts deeper than missing a steady paycheck.

“It’s the loss of hope. It was my very last hope,” Portes said, a part-time Disney World vacation planner working on a degree in legal studies online from Brandman University in California.

About 20,000 part-time and full-time company employees signed up for the education program which lets them study at a list of schools, including the University of Central Florida and Valencia College.

Disney would not say how many students are losing their jobs or how much Disney Aspire will now cost as the company’s theme park division operates with a significantly smaller workforce in a post-coronavirus world.

“While the pandemic has challenged our business and our workforce in immeasurable ways, the Disney Aspire initiative remains important to us,” Disney spokeswoman Andrea Finger said in a statement. “Disney Aspire will continue to be available to our eligible employees, including those who are on furlough.”

The hourly Disney workers who will be let go in December and have already enrolled in college degrees can finish this semester. After that, it’s over, leaving many already grappling with how to pay rent and bills to decide: How do I finish my education?

Some additional resources may be available to help them at their schools, financial aid and at CareerSource Central Florida, which received $7 million in federal coronavirus funding in July.

Laid-off employees learning a trade, English or getting their GEDs through Disney Aspire will be allowed to complete their program. At Valencia College alone, 511 Disney Aspire students are studying English as a second language, according to the school.

KEEP FIGHTING

Portes was one of six children raised by a single mother with an elementary school education growing up in a working-class neighborhood in New

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Paul Quinn College in Dallas part of Chipotle’s debt-free degree program for workers

Paul Quinn College in southern Dallas is partnering with Chipotle Mexican Grill in an education initiative that covers 100% of tuition costs up front for eligible employees.

The restaurant chain’s Cultivate Education program can be applied to more than 75 business and technology degrees. The partnership comes as a result of Chipotle’s alliance with Guild Education, a for-profit company that manages tuition reimbursement programs.

After 120 days of employment, Chipotle workers are eligible to pursue debt-free degrees from nonprofit, accredited universities, including Paul Quinn, the nation’s first urban work college and one of its oldest historically Black colleges and universities.

“It expands who we get to define as our students,” Paul Quinn President Michael Sorrell said in an interview with KXAS-TV (NBC 5). “The opportunity to welcome an amazing group of individuals like these to our college, to what we offer, to our culture, is just something we are incredibly thrilled by and frankly quite humbled to have the opportunity to do.”

More than 8,000 Chipotle employees have enrolled in classes since the program launched in 2016, the company said.

“We want to provide employees with the tools to achieve their full potential and recognize that financial barriers can be one of the biggest obstacles for not furthering their education,” Marissa Andrada, chief diversity, inclusion and people officer at Chipotle, said in a written statement. “Ensuring we provide inclusive benefits and a support system for our employees and recognizing the importance of offering an HBCU in our education program will continue to aid in our efforts to cultivate a better world.”

Michael Sorrell, president of Paul Quinn College in Dallas.

Sorrell also spoke about institutions owning their role in making college more affordable, including by changing fee structures.

“Just like Chipotle found a way to do debt-free education, how about we find a way to make sure that students don’t have to ask multiple generations of their families to go into debt for them to graduate?” he said in the NBC 5 interview. “These types of things, we have to have honest conversations about them, in broad daylight, so that then we can address the issues in a way that leaves everyone better off than when the conversation began.”

This story, originally published in Texas Metro News, is reprinted as part of a collaborative partnership between The Dallas Morning News and TMN. The partnership seeks to boost coverage of Dallas’ communities of color, particularly in southern Dallas.

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