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Former Wal-Mart workers protest at closed Pico Rivera store

Wal-Mart

The Wal-Mart in Pico Rivera has been the scene of several worker protests over the years, including this one from October 2012.

(Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

Protestors gathered Thursday at the Wal-Mart Pico Rivera store, which closed in April, to spotlight what they say is poor treatment of the giant retailer’s workers.

The Pico Rivera location was one of five stores around the country closed in the spring for what Wal-Mart Stores Inc. said was plumbing issues. The stores are reopening by November, and the retailer said it is encouraging former workers to reapply.

But on Thursday, a complaint was filed with the National Labor Relations Board by the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union.

Filed on behalf of Our Wal-Mart, the group of employees protesting for higher pay, the complaint alleges that Wal-Mart had no plans to offer jobs to many of its former employees who were actively involved in the fight for higher wages.

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Wal-Mart has “indicated it that it will not rehire those employees who stood up and engaged in protected concerted activity,” the complaint said.

That complaint follows another filed recently that alleged that the Pico Rivera store closure was intended to punish workers who have campaigned for higher wages — something that Wal-Mart vehemently denies.

Wal-Mart spokesman Brian Nick said that the retailer’s “goal is to rehire as many high-performing associates as possible so we can serve our customers in these communities.”

Most of those protesting on Thursday appeared to be union members, he said, with only one former Pico Rivera store employee joining in the demonstration.

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But Venanzi Luna, a former worker at the Pico Rivera store and a leader of the group Our Wal-Mart, said dozens of former store employees attended the event on Thursday.

The closures affected about 2,200 workers, with about 530 at the Pico Rivera store. Wal-Mart said nearly 75% of the workers who wanted to transfer to another store got an offer to do so.

But many employees at the Pico Rivera store, who have been heavily involved in the now-nationwide movement for $15 an hour pay, say they have no hope of getting a new job at their former place of work.

Julia Sanchez was among those who gathered outside the Pico Rivera store on Thursday. Sanchez, who worked as a Wal-Mart cashier for nine years, said she believes management deliberately did not transfer her to another store after the Pico Rivera location closed because she supported the protests and strikes over the past few years.

“They told us they were going to get us back into another store. I did all the things they told me to do,” the South Los Angeles resident said. “They called me up and said, ‘We can’t find anything.’ ”

Follow Shan Li on Twitter @ShanLi


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