PICO RIVERA (CBSLA.com) — The sudden closure of several Walmart stores for what the company said was plumbing repairs has raised questions among employees who say the closures are a retaliation over a labor dispute.
Laid-off workers, along with their supporters, took to the parking lot outside the now-closed Walmart store in Pico Rivera on Monday to demand a federal injunction to get the store reopened, citing unfair labor practices.
“They should at least try a little better to place us,” laid-off worker and mother of three Candice Rodriguez said. “I think there’s a lot of positions that we can have, and I think it’s not right what they did to us.”
Walmart closed five stores nationwide last week for up to six months, citing the same issues from store to store.
The company released a statement addressing the issue, reading: “We don’t believe there is any basis for an injunction. As we have said all along, these stores were closed temporarily so we could fix the ongoing plumbing issues.”
The workers, meanwhile, aren’t buying the plumbing excuse, stating rather that the closures were retaliation by the company for demands for better wages.
While Walmart did not agree to put a representative on camera, the company did send a list of some 50 plumbing-related complaints, ranging from broken handles to overflowing drains.
Under federal law, the over 500 laid-off employees of the Pico Rivera store must be paid for 60 days, after which Walmart says it will hope to transfer some to other stores. Regardless, workers at Monday’s rally say federal regulators will intervene and get the store reopened before their pay and benefits run out.