On April 13, over 2,000 employees at five Walmart stores across the country, including the Southern California Pico Rivera location, were informed they were being laid off. The reason? Supposed plumbing issues at these stores that required the stores to shut down for six months to do repairs. At the end of that time, employees could reapply for their old jobs.
The plumbing story was fishy for a number of reasons. First, at least one of the locations targeted for repairs happened to be a store with some of the fiercest protests on behalf of the workers. The Pico Rivera store has been the site of multiple Black Friday protests, as well as several other actions to support Walmart workers in the last few years. Last year, St. Francis Registered Nurses Association members stood in solidarity with Walmart workers at the Pico Rivera store in November as workers staged their first ever sit-down strike. And two years ago, gearing up for a Black Friday action in Pico Rivera, a Walmart worker described what it was like to fight for basic rights as a Walmart employee at a UNAC/UHCP steward training (pictured to the right).
Second, ABC News in Tampa, Florida reported that none of the closed stores had requested building permits for these purported plumbing repairs. The permits would be required for any major plumbing repair, presumably including one that necessitates closing down a store for six months.
The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union has filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) alleging the layoffs and closures are retaliation for workers asking for better pay and working conditions.
UNAC/UHCP will continue to follow this story and keep you informed about the progress of the NLRB complaint.