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Pico Rivera Wal-Mart reopens seven months after closing amid labor dispute

Several hundred Wal-Mart workers stage a walkout and protest in front of the Pico Rivera store in October 2012.

Several hundred Wal-Mart workers stage a walkout and protest in front of the Pico Rivera store in October 2012.

(Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

A Pico Rivera Wal-Mart at the center of a labor dispute reopened Friday after closing seven months ago for what the company said were plumbing repairs.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. said in a statement that the repairs, along with “extensive” renovations and upgrades, are now complete.

“We thank the community for their patience during this time, and we look forward to serving our customers,” the Bentonville, Ark.-based company said.

The Pico Rivera store is one of five at the center of a complaint filed with the National Labor Relations Board by the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union. The union filed on behalf of Our Wal-Mart, a group of employees fighting for higher wages.

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The complaint alleges that Wal-Mart closed the Pico Rivera store to punish workers who took part in the first strike against the retailer in 2012 and have pushed for higher wages.

The complaint also contends that the additional four stores -- two in Texas and one each in Florida and Oklahoma -- were closed to “mask” the actions against the Pico Rivera workers, many of whom received only hours of notice.

Wal-Mart has denied those allegations, saying the stores that closed had recurring plumbing problems. Each store recorded more than 100 plumbing incidents over two years, the most of any of the retailer’s more than 4,500 U.S. stores.

All but the Florida location reopened Friday.

The closures affected about 2,200 workers. Wal-Mart said nearly 75% of the workers who asked for a transfer received one. The company anticipates hiring 2,100 employees.

Wal-Mart is still hiring and will have about 400 to 450 employees at the Pico Rivera store.

In a statement, workers said many employees who signed a petition last year calling for Wal-Mart to institute higher wages and more hours were not rehired or transferred to another store. Former employees at the Pico Rivera location said they would go on strike outside the store on Black Friday if workers were not reinstated.

Wal-Mart said it has been in “regular communication” with the NLRB and is working to address its requests for information.

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