Walmart closes Oakland store


Infographic by Tam Duong Jr./The Pioneer

Louis LaVenture,
News and Sports Editor

In October, Walmart CEO Doug McMillon announced the store would undergo changes and he was right.

Walmart hasn’t given any specific explanations, but officials announced on Jan. 15 they would close 269 stores worldwide, which includes the East Bay superstore in Oakland.

The one stop shop has been at the Edgewater Drive location in Oakland since its grand opening in 2005, when more than 11,000 people applied for more than 400 jobs, according to Walmart. In a press statement, Walmart said the reason for the closures was because the stores weren’t performing well or they didn’t fit into the long-term plan for the company, but did not elaborate further.

“This has been a very successful store for Walmart financially,” Oakland City Councilman Larry Reid said. “It would not surprise me if the increased minimum wage had something to do with the closure.”

Measure FF, which Oakland voters approved in Nov. 2014, increased the city’s minimum wage from $9 per hour to $12.25 per hour and went into effect Mar. 2, 2015. This measure also ensured another increase in hourly wages from $12.25 to $12.55, which went into effect on Jan. 1, 2016.

“Let’s be real, they don’t want to pay us,” former Walmart employee Ari Little said. “Wages go up and the store closes? Our store was always packed, there’s no way our numbers was low.”

Several former employees believe that the increase in wages had a direct effect on closing the store. Walmart closed a location in San Jose, which also had a minimum wage increase go into effect Jan. 1. Hayward, San Leandro and Fremont all have Walmarts that will remain open; however those cities do not have increased minimum wages like Oakland and San Jose.

Infographic by Tam Duong Jr.
Infographic by Tam Duong Jr.

“Minimum wage hikes would certainly raise Walmart’s labor costs and could cause of stores,” said Jed DeVaro, Faculty member of College of Business and Economics department at CSUEB.

The closures come on the heels of the announcement by Forbes Magazine that from 2014 to 2015, Walmart total sales increased 1.9 percent from the previous year’s total and rose to $482.2 billion. Walmart also ranked first on the 2014 Fortune 500 list of the world’s largest companies by revenue.

Walmart shoppers, present and former employees staged an impromptu protest at the Edgewater Drive location on Jan. 17 when the store closed.

“This is a billion dollar company, I don’t get it,” Oakland resident and Walmart shopper Yvette Ruiz said. “I am elderly and I am on a fixed income. I have been shopping here for seven years since I moved to Oakland. I don’t know what I am going to do. I guess take a cab to San Leandro.”

In their press statement, Walmart officials said employees would stay employed until the end of February to help with the closure. It also said that all employees would be offered a 60 day severance package, retraining and potential jobs at different locations. Walmart officials did not elaborate on the details of the severance package or the retraining.

In an open letter to all Walmart employees, McMillon said, “In recent years we’ve had tough economic environments, a rapidly growing company, and fundamental shifts in how customers are shopping. We also made a few changes aimed at productivity and efficiency that undermined the feeling of ownership some of you have for your business. When we take a step back, it’s clear to me that one of our highest priorities must be to invest more in our people this year.”

The investment in people seems to have taken a step back as the company, who employs 2.2 million employees globally and roughly 1.4 million in the United States, let go of 16,000 workers worldwide and 10,000 in the United States, according to Forbes.

In the announcement Walmart officials confirmed 154 of the closures are in the United States, nine of which are in California. This includes 102 express stores, 6 discount centers, 12 supercenters, 23 Neighborhood Markets, 4 Sam’s Clubs and 7 Amigo stores in Puerto Rico.[mks_pullquote align=”left” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]”This has been my life for almost ten years, it’s going to be a hard change”[/mks_pullquote]

“This has been my life for almost ten years,” Oakland resident James Perez said. “It’s going be a hard change.”

Perez stated that he has already begun the process to transfer to a different store but he was somewhat discouraged by the amount of people who did the same thing.

“There’s two stores in San Leandro I’m trying to transfer to,” Perez said. “I heard a lot of people are doing the same thing. Hundreds.”

At the time of publication Walmart officials did not return phone calls made by The Pioneer.