Earlier this year, Wal-Mart had some “plumbing” problems.
As regular readers might recall, the retailer shuttered five geographically distinct locations across the country citing intractable and persistent “clogs and leaks.”
The story gave birth to a variety of conspiracy theories including the contention that the closures were part and parcel of a plan to use the locations as internment camps in connection with the US SpecOps command’s Jade Helm 15 drills.
Another plausible explanation was that the closures were connected to the company’s desperate attempt to preserve margins in the wake of what now looks like an ill-advised decision to implement an across-the-board wage hike. Raising wages for the retailer’s lowest-paid associates led directly to a mad scramble aimed at extracting more savings from suppliers and ultimately resulted in a stunning guidance cut in October that sent the company’s shares plunging. Predictably, the pay raises also led to layoffs in Bentonville and fewer hours for employees. The store closures, we suggested back in April, could simply be another attempt to offset the cost of the wage hikes.
Finally, some contended that at least one location may have been closed for its connection to organized labor. As we documented extensively in “Did WalMart Close A California Store To Punish Employees Who Protested Wages And Working Conditions?,” the Pico Rivera, California store had been a hotbed for wage and labor protests over the years. It was among the locations that were closed on short notice.
First, a little background.
When we began to look into each of the locations marked on the map shown above, we came across something rather interesting involving the Pico Rivera, CA store. As it turns out, it’s been the site of wage and working condition protests on a number of occasions, the most recent of which was late last year.
Almost exactly one year prior to the latest picket, the Pico Rivera store was (along with multiple other locations across the US) the site of protests alleging that the company did not pay enough to keep many of its workers from seeking government assistance to supplement their meager wages (recall that 73% of those receiving public assistance in the US come from working families).
And just a little over a year before the 2013 Black Friday protests, more than 200 workers at Pico Rivera went on strike and protested in front of the store waving signs that read “On Strike for the Freedom to Speak Out,” suggesting the company was retaliating against those who fought for better wages and working conditions.
What’s especially interesting here is that one of the groups which has consistently backed protests at the Pico Rivera store is the The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union or, UFCW.
The UFCW has a history with the company. Back in 2004, when workers at the Jonquiere, Quebec location…