Walmart has recently closed down five stores and laid off nearly 2,200 workers. Although the retailer cited plumbing issues that needed urgent repairs, a union claims that the move was an attempt to retaliate against workers who had demanded better pay over the last few years.
On Monday, the union also filed a claim with the National Labor Relations Board asking that all workers get rehired without any penalties. If the labor board steps in, problems would get solved quicker than suing Walmart.
Walmart announced last week its decision to temporarily close five of its stores in Oklahoma, Florida, Texas, and Calif. The big-box retailer explained that a series of plumbing issues forced it to close the stores and leave about 2,200 people without their job. Walmart also said that it was working to reopen the stores as soon as possible.
A spokesperson for Walmart said Monday that there was no real basis for an injunction.
But the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) which filed the complaint with the labor board argued that Walmart initially closed a Pico Rivera store in California because its workers were the most active in demanding their rights. Those workers even organized the first national strike at a Walmart store in 2012. According to the union, the world’s largest retailer’s move to close four other stores was just a cover-up.
The UFCW explained that the store in Pico Rivera was shut down because the workers there were the most active members of the union around the country in their fight to improve working conditions. The UFCW now seeks that all 2,200 employees get rehired or transferred to other stores without a pay loss.
One of the laid-off workers described Walmart’s move as “a new low, even for Walmart.” Workers announced that they won’t stop their fight until they get their jobs back.
Labor dispute experts believe that the NLRB, which has a Democrat majority, would favor workers. On the other hand, the retailer could bring extensive documentation on the necessity of the repairs at its five stores that could cancel the union’s claims. Moreover, the company would also need to prove that the repairs needed in all five stores were “equally significant”.
But if Walmart fails to prove that, the allegations that it did it as a retaliation could be turn out to be true. Walmart reported that all five stores had more than 100 plumbing issues each, which weren’t repaired over the last two years.
A company’s spokesperson recently disclosed that the stores were temporarily closed due to plumbing issues. So, any attempt to slow the repairs down would be “unfortunate” for customers and associates, the spokesperson also said.
According to the company, the repairs would require up to six months, in which the stores would remain shuttered, some of their workers would be put on a 2-month paid leave, while others would be transferred to other stores.
On the other hand, the company’s spokesperson admitted that such a move was highly atypical for Walmart. Yet it was justified in order to improve customer experience.
Image Source: Salon