In April, Wal-Mart was the subject of a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) after Wal-Mart closed five stores, including one where workers had been fighting for higher wages and benefits and working with a union.
Wal-Mart claimed that the closings were for “repairs” such as plumbing, but workers in partnership with the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) alleged the real reason for the closures was an attempt to disrupt labor organizing and punish workers at Wal-Mart Pico Rivera store.
In 2012, the Pico Rivera store become the first Wal-Mart store in the United States to ever go on strike. Workers at the store had been working with UFCW to fight for higher wages and benefits and likely to form a union. UFCW claimed in the NLRB complaint that Walmart was using repairs as a cover to shutdown labor organizing at Pico Rivera.
Last Week, Wal-Mart announced plans to reopen the stores in late October or early November. Wal-Mart spokesman Lorenzo Lopez claimed that Wal-Mart would be encouraging the former employees of the closed stores to reapply for work at the reopened stores.
UFCW spokeswoman Jessica Levin said the previous workers should be reinstated without going through a new application process given the stated reason for closing the stores had nothing to do with worker performance.
The complaint filed against Wal-Mart in April is still being investigated by the NLRB and no ruling has been made as to whether the store closings for repairs were a cover for a campaign to prevent worker organizing at Pico Rivera.
Wal-Mart has faced escalating criticism in recent years for its labor practices, particularly the low pay it offers to its workers. Strikes and protests at Wal-Mart stores, starting at the Pico Rivera store in 2012, have now spread to major American cities with groups such as Our Walmart and activists with Fight For 15 pushing for higher compensation for Walmart workers.
In response to the criticism, Wal-Mart went on a PR blitz and claimed it would be raising wages at its stores so most workers would receive at least $9 an hour. Not soon after, Wal-Mart compensated for the modest wage increases by cutting hours.