Walmart Reiterates: 5 Simultaneous Store Closures Were Due To Non-Urgent Plumbing Problems

Members of the public, local government officials, and Walmart employees aren’t buying Walmart’s explanation that five stores in four different states all had to close abruptly on the same day until because of problems with their plumbing. Yet Walmart stands by that explanation, even in the handout it distributed to employees when announcing the store closures.

For now, everyone employed at the five stores is still on the Walmart payroll: the chain has promised them 60 days of severance pay. They can transfer to other nearby stores if there’s a position open, or seek employment elsewhere.

Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart) is a movement working for better pay and conditions for Walmart’s employees, and is backed by the the United Food and Commercial Workers union. They provided photos of pages from the packet handed out to employees of one closing store to Gawker, and they highlighted the advice given to the thousands of people who were suddenly out of work on a generic “coping with stress” handout. Some of the advice is good, and some is rather patronizing: they provide a list of symptoms that people may experience in stressful times, and advise people to stay away from comforting substances like tobacco, chocolate, and alcohol. The thoughtlessness of this handout becomes clear more than halfway down the page, where it advises Walmart workers who have had their jobs abruptly yanked out from under them to “[s]eek help if reactions [to losing your job] are interfering with job responsibilities.”

What job responsibilities? At the job that they just lost, or at one of their two other part-time jobs? There’s also a handy sheet of questions that employees might have about the store closure.

9. Did these plumbing issues create a health or safety concern for customers and associates? No. These incidents impact the availability of water and create drainage issues for critical areas of the store, such as the deli section, which impact our ability to serve customers.

So the plumbing problems weren’t urgent or dangerous, but worth throwing hundreds of people out of work for the rest of the year anyway.

10. Are you closing the store for financial reasons? No. The store has a strong customer base and is part of the reason we have made the decision to invest in improving the store. We plan to reopen once the improvements are completed.

However, it is not worth investing in making sure that the employees who make store so successful don’t lose their homes and don’t have to scramble to get another job with short notice. Gotcha.

As Ashley Feinberg over at our semi-estranged former sibling site Gawker points out, “the likelihood of five different stores needing to be shut down simultaneously, all for six months, all due to plumbing issues, and all with just a few hours notice on the same day, is astronomically low.”

In a statement to Gawker, though, Walmart explained that everyone is still on the payroll, they’re looking for other jobs within the company while the stores are closed, and that OUR Walmart are a bunch of meanies for cherry-picking just a few pages from the very helpful packet that they handed out.

At this point, all associates are currently employed with Walmart. As I mentioned many will have the opportunity to transfer to other stores so they can continue their employment through the temporary closure. We are currently actively working to identify transfer opportunities for associates.

Whenever we have a situation that impacts our associates our goal is to provide them information that will help answer their questions, as well as provide guidance to resources and other information that would help through any transition. The “coping with transition” document is a standard resource we provide associates to help them manage the difficulties of discussing any type of work transition with others. It’s unfortunate that our critics are attempting to minimize this process by conveniently excluding all the other valuable information our associates received and need during this time.

Walmart’s Advice to 2,200 Laid Off Workers: Don’t Eat Chocolate [Gawker]