A total of five Wal-Mart locations were shut down in states across the nation including Texas, Oklahoma, Florida and California on April 13. Each location was only given a five-hour closing notice. Although Wal-Mart claims that the reason for the shutdowns are due to plumbing issues, many have accused Wal-Mart of union busting.
The Mayor Pro Tem of Pico Rivera, David Armenta, stated that Wal-Mart needed to have permits from the city in order to accomplish any form of plumbing construction. However, the city did not receive any permit request from Wal-Mart.
Wal-Mart’s closure is one that has a large impact on Pico Rivera because this superstore is well placed and has immense income sales tax revenue that helps further the city’s economic growth. Wal-Mart alone brings in $100,000 that goes towards funding city programs.
There is strong speculation that Wal-Mart is practicing union busting, or the shutting down of a business to disperse an upcoming union, since the Pico Rivera Wal-Mart was one of the first locations to exhibit employees gathering into a protest for better wages, benefits, and job security.
Since Wal-Mart is widely known for their low prices, consenting to labor unions would increase wage standards, resulting in an increase of prices for products. This potential increase in product price would lead to more customers being reluctant to shop at Wal-Mart, ultimately reducing business.
An estimated 500-800 jobs were at stake, but not all jobs were lost. It is highly probable that the employees who were active in unionizing were laid-off, while only 50 were transferred. These 50 workers remained for a few weeks in order to help clean up and package the remaining items. Those individuals that were laid-off were offered a severance package and a consistent pay for 60 days.
Both the manager and the employees of the Pico Rivera branch are apprehensive to providing their opinions regarding the shutdown. Many employees refused interviews by stating, “I cannot answer these questions, but my manager can.” The manager’s response was hardly different with her stating, “I cannot answer any questions.” She then proceeded to walk into the establishment and lock the door.
As far as locals are concerned, many are extremely upset.
Daughter of transferred Wal-Mart employees, Odalys Chavez claims, “While I am grateful that Wal-Mart made accommodations for my parents, I still disagree with their methods. I resent the manner in which the employees, who were fired, received a short five-hour notice. I know these laid-off employees didn’t lose a home or any type of property, but they lost something far worse: their source of economic stability.”
Local shopper, Jay James, states, “The shutdown was definitely a retaliation against the employees protesting wages and trying to start a union. The plumbing statement was nonsense. Their shutdown had nothing to do with that.”
The economic consequences which the city of Pico Rivera, along with other cities in the United States, face is a dramatic decrease in sales tax revenue. Although the Pico Rivera branch will reopen in six months, the city will most likely encounter harsh financial losses.
-Emily James and Randy Lazaro