Hundreds of Workers Displaced As Plumbing Problems Close Walmart

Customers arriving at a Southern California Walmart were shocked and dumbfounded to find its doors closed Tuesday with signs posted on it that read: "Closed indefinitely."
Also in disbelief were the hundreds of workers who depended on the Pico Rivera superstore for jobs.

"I don't feel like anyone cares about what's going on with us, or our life situation, can you recommend us, so you know if they'll take us, and there's no information," said Mary Montes Martinez, a former employee.

The store on the 8500 block of Washington Boulevard closed at 2 p.m Monday to address serious plumbing problems, like persistent leaks and clogs, that resulted in over 100 incidents over the years.

A staff member told NBC4 the 500-strong workforce was laid off at the store, which they claimed is projected to be closed for six months to a year. Others claimed the move was retaliation for workers demanding better conditions and pay.

Venanzi Luna was one of the hundreds of workers affected by the closure.

"This is my bread. There's a lot of single moms here (and) older people that depend on this. This is how we pay our rent, how we take care of our families," Luna said.

Walmart communications director Delia Garcia insisted the company was trying to find alternative employment for its staff, but admitted they would have to reapply for their old jobs at the Pico Rivera location if it reopened.

"These are not layoffs.We are trying to find transfer opportunities to other Walmarts and Sams Clubs in the area for the affected employees," Garcia said, "We do anticipate reopening. But when we do, we'll be hiring to restaff... everyone will have to reapply as if new employees."

Representatives with the Los Angeles County's Rapid Response Team showed up Tuesday morning to assist with on-site services while the store was in transition.

"What we are concerned with is the employees that are being laid off and we want to make them aware of the services that are available to them," said Armando Lojero, a specialist with the team.

Services provided by the response team included revamping resumes, helping with job searches, applying for unemployment and helping employees keep their health insurance, among others. 

Employee meetings were scheduled for Thursday and Friday.

"Per the Warren Act, we've advised associates they will have up to 60 days of regular pay and benefits. And if (there is) no transfer after 60 days, severance packages will be made available," Garcia said.

She declined to comment on the retaliation claims made by staff members.

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