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Walmart Union Busting

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Oh Walmart. You are so evil.

Wal-Mart suddenly closed five stores in four states on Monday for alleged plumbing problems.

The closures could last up to six months and affect roughly 2,200 workers in Texas, California, Oklahoma, and Florida, CNN Money reports.

Wal-Mart employees say they were completely blindsided by the news, having been notified only a couple hours before the stores closed at 7 p.m. Monday.

“Everybody just panicked and started crying,” Venanzi Luna, a manager at a store in Pico Rivera, California, told CNN Money.

All workers will receive paid leave for two months. After that, full-time workers could become eligible for severance, according to CNN Money. But part-time workers will be on their own.

Local officials and employees have questioned Wal-Mart’s reasoning for the closures.

Why were these stores closed? Because they had activist employees.

The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) said it planned to seek an injunction from the National Labor Relations Board on Monday compelling retailer Wal-Mart to rehire 2,200 employees at five recently closed stores.

The UFCW claims that Wal-Mart Stores closed its Pico Rivera location — one of the five stores — in the Los Angeles area in retaliation for protests by workers there in recent years seeking higher pay and benefits.

The voice of a worker at the Pico Rivera store:

“This is a new low, even for Walmart,” said Venanzi Luna, an eight-year Walmart worker and long-time OUR Walmart member. “It’s just so heartless to put thousands of your employees out of a job with no clear explanation on just a few hours’ notice. We know that Walmart is scared of all we have accomplished as members of OUR Walmart so they’re targeting us. Through OUR Walmart, we’re going to keep fighting back until the company gives us our jobs back. It’s unfortunate that Walmart has chosen to hurt the lives of so many people, just to try to conceal their real motives of silencing workers just like they’ve always done.”

Interestingly, this comes at the same time that the UFCW is pulling back its commitment for the expensive and rather unproductive Walmart campaign is has funded.

I suspect there will be more details about these Walmart closings coming out in subsequent days.

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  • Malaclypse

    You buried the lede:

    According to ABC News, “no plumbing permits have been pulled in any of the five cities where the stores were suddenly closed for at least six months.”

    • Snarki, child of Loki

      But…they HAVE to be having plumbing problems! How else can you explain how full of shit they are?

      • DrDick

        You need to have actual plumbing to have problems with it.

    • ThrottleJockey

      I read this story last week and the union angle didn’t occur to me. Its a plausible story in light of the lack of plumbing permits, but closing 5 stores for six months will cost it something like $300M. That seems like an excessive amount of money to spend. There has to be cheaper ways to stop union organizing. Hell, for $1M they could hire some hoods to knee cap a couple of union activists. Unless there’s more to this union than meets the eye, its hard to believe they’d spend so exorbitantly. Walmart makes its executives share rooms during business trips but they’re going to spend $300M to stop a union that wasn’t having all that much success anyways? Moreover, why shut 6 stores when just 1 was being organized?

      • Malaclypse

        the union angle didn’t occur to me

        That does not speak well for your business acumen.

        but closing 5 stores for six months will cost it something like $300M.

        There’s no plausible way that a typical store makes $120M/year in profit. They average 95M/year in total sales So, did you just pull numbers from your ass, or were you deliberately trying to be deceptive?

        • ThrottleJockey

          If I was a businessman I suppose your jibes about my business acumen would bother me.

          The $300M was based on revenues not, ahem, EBITDA. My businessman/woman friends in retail tell me they bonus off of revenue, but feel free to use EBITDA if you prefer. Even so that’s a lot of money considering there are far cheaper alternatives. And that doesn’t explain why they close 5 additional stores besides just the 1 that’s organizing. Burn the village to save the village? That doesn’t even work in the movies.

          • Malaclypse

            No worries, I just wanted to highlight the fact that when you stated that this would “cost” Walmart 300M that this was a wildly inaccurate number, that, shockingly, helped you with a pro-employer narrative.

    • los

      those crappy union plumbers can’t do anything right.

  • Phil Perspective

    From the BezosPost article you linked to:

    But in 2013, it pledged to stop trying to unionize at Wal-Mart stores after the company accused it of illegally picketing; all OUR Walmart efforts are now purely aimed at bettering wages and working conditions for employees.

    Seems that’s the problem there. They disarmed because of a lame threat.

    • I don’t think the new president of UFCW was ever really in favor of the campaign. And it’s a legitimate position to take–using members’ dues to fund campaigns that will never pay off is something one can argue is a bad idea.

      • Brett

        They might have been hoping for a “Justice for Janitors” style success down the line, although I can’t see that happening any time soon. And Everybody Says that unions have to build partnerships in the broader community, align themselves with social movements . . .

        I think I’ve come around to the more pessimistic Rich Yeselson view on things. You’ll win some victories here and there, but major waves of unions and pro-labor legislation are much rarer, at the confluence of sympathetic leadership and bubbling-up ground level labor action like the 1930s.

        • Yeah, I can see both sides of these arguments, largely because both sides are basically right.

  • Steve LaBonne

    I knew there had to be more to that story than the BS plumbing cover story. I’m glad that I have persuaded my wife to join me in refusing to set foot in any of their stores.

    • Phil Perspective

      I’m of two minds about this. People losing their jobs sucks, obviously. The upside is that if more workers joined this campaign then maybe Walmart would, soon enough, go the way of the do-do bird.

      • But the workers wouldn’t want Walmart to go under. They need the jobs!

        • DrDick

          It is also the case that Costco manages to make even better profits while paying better wages and benefits.

        • LosGatosCA

          I think they want the jobs that a better employer who would REPLACE WalMart in the marketplace would provide.

          See Costco, hopefully.

          Shitty employers should be forced out of business when possible. The demand doesn’t die with them.

          • Steve LaBonne

            That’s how I look at it. (I like Costco a lot.)

      • Brett

        No they won’t. Walmart’s in a better position to handle higher wages than most of its comparable competitors in the same type of business (Costco’s business model is different – more bulk sales, far fewer employees). It’s why they actually tend to be neutral on minimum wage hikes as long as they apply equally to all stores.

    • los

      I’d go in only if i really really needed to use their plumbing
      “That’s a laundry hamper, what? Are you sure? I know I couldn’t find the flush handle.”

  • evodevo

    And I bet if any customers complain to headquarters, you can bet WalMart will blame the associates. Oldest corporate response to worker activism there is … “We couldn’t afford those raises, so we shut down the plant.”

    Take the ball and go home.

    • jim, some guy in iowa

      “if we had to pay the workers more, then it would cost the poor folks who buy our stuff more money! you don’t want *that* on your conscience, do you?”

      i can think of two people who comment here saying that- as well as wally-hell management

    • Brett

      Sometimes it’s true . . .

  • Brett

    Mike Hiltzik at the LA Times has a good post on this. The store may have had some plumbing issues (like a lack of hot water for the deli), but they probably were not the kind of repairs that would require a six-month closure. Hell, they kept the same store open right through a major refurbishment.

    Interestingly, this comes at the same time that the UFCW is pulling back its commitment for the expensive and rather unproductive Walmart campaign is has funded.

    It seems like you’d want to solicit a lot more outside support for that type of thing, if it’s not an organization campaign. Worker-Centers IIRC were and are often funded by outside foundations and individuals.

  • LosGatosCA

    Wonder whatever happened to this plan PR move?

    It’s still a mystery to me that K-Mart was so inept they lost to these guys. But then again what they’re doing to the Sears brand makes it less so.

    • Steve LaBonne

      It seems that basic competence is generally more than one can expect from the managements of big retail chains. Target is getting more and more effed up as well, in addition to being a shitty employer.

    • Phil Perspective

      You do realize what happened to Sears, right? It’s being run by an Ayn Rand-loving rich guy by the name of Eddie Lampert. There are plenty of stories out there about what a crappy CEO he is, yet he continues to make millions.

      • los

        take millions

  • gratuitous

    An ingenious work-around to avoid the WARN Act, wouldn’t you say? Lucky for Wal-Mart there’s nobody in government from either party who’s going to so much as say “boo” to them, so they’ll get away with it. Again.

  • John Revolta

    I’ve been following this story and I haven’t heard any reports about union-type activity at any of the other four stores. Has anybody got anything?

  • wengler

    Now would be the perfect time for someone in the field of politics to chirp up and ask if there is a fundamental flaw in the construction of Wal-Marts. Perhaps all Wal-Marts should be shuttered until these pernicious ‘plumbing’ issues are dealt with.

  • divadab

    They did the same thing several years ago in Quebec – when workers at the St-Hyacinthe WalMart unionised, Walmart closed the store. And St-Hyacinthe is an almost perfect WalMArt demographic – so the company’s claim that it was a poor location ring false. I suppose “pluck out thine own eye if it offend thee” is some kind of ethos……

    • Davis X. Machina

      Didn’t they just open another one in the Montreal ‘burbs about 5 miles away instead?

      The cost of a whole new store is trivial compared to the risk posed by one store organizing.

  • ColBatGuano

    Wake up sheeple! Infowars has got the real scoop on these closings:

    WALMART ‘PLUMBING’ ISSUE RELATED TO DHS UNDERGROUND TUNNEL NETWORK: “THIS IS A VERY REAL SITUATION”

    That’s right, they’re being readied as detainment camps when Obummer declares martial law. I am not a crank.

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