Economy

Walmart to Close Hundreds of Stores, Lay Off Thousands of Employees

Walmart, the nation's largest retail chain, said it will be closing around 269 stores globally, 154 of which are in the U.S. The move is expected to affect about 16,000 employees worldwide. In the U.S. the closures are expected to impact 10,000 employees, and workers' groups are raising concerns.

The announcement comes after talks in October to actively review the company's 11,000 stores worldwide. According to the company, 102 of the stores slated to close are some of Walmart's smallest "Walmart Express" stores. Others include 23 Neighborhood Markets, 12 Supercenters, and a handful of discount stores, Sam's Clubs, and outposts in Puerto Rico.

Walmart said it hopes to rehire the 10,000 laid-off employees.

"We invested considerable time assessing our stores and clubs and don't take this lightly," said company CEO Doug McMillon in a statement. "We ... will take all appropriate steps to ensure [employees] are treated well," a statement read.

Walmart said it would try to place employees affected by the closures in other company stores, and the company said it would give severance pay for 60 days, along with resume and interview training to eligible employees who were not re-hired. It also hinted at plans to open 300 stores globally next year.

Workers' groups are concerned.

Extreme-measures-Walmart-workers-take-to-afford-food

Still, workers' groups voiced concern over the closures, saying that the message the store sent to employees was "chilling."

"Walmart is a company that, time and again, will say one thing and then do the opposite. Public relations matters more to them than their customers, the community, or their employees," said Jess Levin, communications director for Making Change at Walmart, in an emailed statement to ATTN:. 

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“While it pretends to value its employees, the reality is, for Walmart, its workers are disposable. Sadly, these latest store closings could very well be just the beginning," Levin added. "This sends a chilling message to the company’s hard-working employees that they could be next - and with no one standing up for them, that is no doubt the reality.”

Walmart, which will announce the stores to close midday on Friday, said the closures would represent less than 1 percent of its global square footage and revenue.

The news comes just before the one-year anniversary of a projected multi billion dollar investment the company made in its employees. Last February, it announced wage hikes for around 500,000 full- and part-time associates in response to national protest over substandard wages. Those employees — about a third of the company's U.S. workforce — would see their wages raised to at least $9 per hour, $1.75 above the federal minimum wage, the company said.

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By February 2016, it promised those wages would go up to at least $10 per hour. The company has come under fire for providing too-low wages to its employees, in turn bolstering reliance on government assistance programs and costing taxpayers an estimated $6.2 billion each year to subsidize its workers. 

Walmart’s Grease Fuel Truck

Asked about Walmart's stated plans to hire back laid-off workers, Levin told ATTN: in a phone call she's wary.

"Walmart has said similar things when they've closed stores in the past," she said, citing what she described as a dubious closure of one Walmart store in Pico Rivera, California.

"I'm very skeptical," she continued.

Walmart did not immediately respond to ATTN:'s request for comment.