More than 2,200 people are out of work as Walmart unexpectedly closed five stores for what the company is calling 'severe plumbling problems'.
U.S.-based OUR Walmart (Organization United for Respect at Walmart) says that the company's claim of plumbing problems are just excuses to punish workers for protesting for higher pay. Workers at one of the now closed stores led one of the first Black Friday protests in 2012.
"This is a new low, even for Walmart," says Venanzi Luna, a Walmart worker of eight years and an OUR Walmart member. "We know that Walmart is scared of all we have accomplished as members of OUR Walmart so they're targeting us. 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."
The UFCW International Union has filed a claim with the U.S. National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) that Walmart's recent closing of five stores was done in retaliation for a history of labour activism, rather than because of the plumbing problems the retailer cited. UFCW is asking for a injunction that would require Walmart to rehire the 2,200 workers who were temporarily laid off or affected by the closings.
Walmart is the world's largest company by revenue with a global workforce of 2.2 million people worldwide. The company insists that each of the five stores closed have had more than 100 plumbing problems within the last two years.