PICO RIVERA (CBSLA.com) — Some Walmart employees are wondering whether this week's abrupt closure of a Pico Rivera store was the result of a costly plumbing problem as the company continues to cite.
Venanzi Luna was one of 530 employees told Monday that the store is closing for six months to fix plumbing issues.
Luna has worked as a deli manager at the store for seven years getting paid $14 an hour. She explains that she was slated to get a raise in June.
"Everybody was crying. It was very emotional being in there," said Luna, who explains that there is no guarantee she'll get back the same job.
Luna says that as a member with the Organization United for Respect at Walmart, a group funded by the Food Workers Union, she has led strikes and sit-ins.
Pico Rivera has been a hotbed for worker activism as protests took place there for higher wages.
Luna wonders if Walmart was targeting the workers who spoke out.
"This is the first store that went on strike. This is the first store in demanding changes for Walmart," she said.
"I can't speculate on Walmart's motives," City Manager Rene Bobadilla said. "What we were told that it was a sewer issue."
Bobadilla says Pico Rivera was blindsided by the Walmart move and that they have not received any permit requests from Walmart, saying it's unusual.
"Our concern: It's a big hit. Not just to our residents who work there. They are a big sales-tax producer for us, so we are going to take a financial hit," Bobadilla said.
Walmart won't address the union claims and has said this is about the repairs.
The store says the Pico Rivera location, like the four other stores closing from Texas to Florida, has had 100 costly plumbing incidents, including leaks and clogs over the past two years.
Employees like Luna will be given a percentage of their pay for 60 days with the option to transfer or reapply.
"All the time you put in here, all the effort that we did, is out the door," she said.
On Thursday morning, Luna and other Walmart workers will gather to protest in front of the DoubleTree Hotel, where the employees have been told to meet with managers to discuss their job details.
for more features.