NEW YORK (AP) – For some Walmart employees, the day brought news of a pay raise. Others learned they were out of a job.
Walmart said on Thursday that it is boosting its starting salary for US workers and handing out bonuses. The announcement came as the company also confirmed it is closing dozens of Sam’s Club warehouse stores – a move that a union-backed group estimated could cost thousands of jobs.
The world’s largest private employer said it was closing 63 of its 660 Sam’s Clubs over the next weeks, with some shut already. Up to 12 are being converted into e-commerce distribution centres, the company said.
It did not disclose how many people would lose their jobs, but said some workers may be placed at other Walmart locations. Making Change at Walmart, a campaign backed by the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, estimates that 150 to 160 people work at each Sam’s Club store, meaning the closures could affect about 10,000 people.
Lauren Fitz, 22, said she was at her other job as a church secretary when a colleague texted to say that the Sam’s Club where they both worked in Loveland, Ohio, had closed. Fitz had been pleased earlier to read the news that Walmart was boosting starting salaries and offering bonuses.
“I thought, ‘This is really cool.’ And then to find out that my store is closing,” said Fitz, who said she had worked as a sales associate in the jewellery department for two months. At home, she got a call from her manager and had a letter in the mail saying the store had closed and she could seek employment at another Sam’s Club or Walmart store.
Local news reports said Sam’s Clubs stores were closing in Texas, California, New Jersey, Ohio, Indiana and Alaska, among other states.
“Transforming our business means managing our real estate portfolio and Walmart needs a strong fleet of Sam’s Clubs that are fit for the future,” Sam’s Club CEO John Furner said in a statement. “We know this is difficult news for our associates and we are working to place as many of them as possible at nearby locations.”
Earlier in the day, Walmart cited the sweeping Republican tax overhaul that will save it money in announcing the higher hourly wages, one-time bonuses and expanded parental benefits that will affect more than a million hourly workers in the US.