How Wal-Mart's sudden closure crippled a California city

Wal-MartAPA Wal-Mart employee in Walpole, Mass. pushes a line of shopping carts.

Wal-Mart’s sudden closure of a store in Pico Rivera, California has devastated the city.

The store was the city’s second biggest employer, and its closure laid off more than 500 workers, The Los Angeles Times reports.

The store also generated about 10% of Pico Rivera’s sales tax revenue — or about $US1.3 million annually, according to the report.

Now hundreds of laid-off employees are trying to find work while city officials scramble to plug the gap in revenue.

“It’s a severe blow to our community, certainly, with the local economy, the homes and families, in terms of those people that were counting on those paychecks,” Pico Rivera Mayor Gregory Salcido told the Times.

The Pico Rivera store was one of five locations that Wal-Mart abruptly closed on April 13 due to what the company said were severe plumbing problems. The closures resulted in more than 2,200 layoffs in Texas, California, Oklahoma, and Florida.

Wal-Mart employees have a different theory about why the Pico Rivera store was closed.

They say Wal-Mart shut down the store in retaliation against workers protesting for better pay and working conditions.

The Pico Rivera store was the first Wal-Mart store in the US to go on strike in October 2012. Since then, the store has been a “hotbed” for labour activity, according to the UFCW, a labour group representing Wal-Mart’s laid-off workers.

The UFCW has filed a claim with the National Labour Relations Board demanding that the company rehire the employees.

“Walmart has targeted this store because the associates have been among the most active associates around the country to improve working conditions,” the claim says.

The company says the plumbing work could take approximately six months to complete. All laid-off workers are getting two months of severance pay and some will be provided jobs at nearby Wal-Mart stores.

The Pico Rivera store opened in 2002 and it was renovated in 2007 to become a Supercenter, which is what Wal-Mart calls its biggest stores. The store was again renovated in 2014, according to the Times report.

As the Times points out, Yelp reviews of the Pico Rivera store are pretty sour.

The store has a ranking of two stars out of five, with customers complaining about long lines, empty shelves, poor customer service, scarce shopping carts, and an overall lack of cleanliness.

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