Workers employed in Sam’s Club locations in Auburn, Renton, and Seattle were surprised to learn Thursday that their stores would be closing as part of a larger nationwide shuttering of 63 store locations, affecting 495 workers in the King County area.
An advisory from the Employment Security Department of Washington State detailed that permanent layoffs will be effective March 16 at these three locations: 168 in Auburn, 179 in Renton, and 148 in Seattle.
Although the stores are not expected to close until March, all three of these stores were closed on Jan. 11 and they have already disappeared from the store locator search on the Sam’s Club website. The stores are expected to reopen tomorrow according to messages on the stores’ voicemails.
Ten of the affected stores will be turned into distribution centers for online orders, and employees will have the opportunity to reapply for positions at these locations, according to a report by KIRO 7.
These layoffs come on the heel of a Thursday morning announcement from Walmart, which owns Sam’s Club, saying that it will be raising its starting wage from $9 to $11, giving bonuses to some employees, and expanding parental leave benefits. In addition to owning Sam’s Club, Walmart is the largest private employer in the country, and these changes affect potentially thousands of workers throughout the nation. The retailer said it would pay for the raises and expansion of benefits with the money it expects to save under the recently passed tax plan. There is currently no clear indication that the store closures and the pay raises are linked.
Sam’s Club responded to some disgruntled customers on Twitter with a statement that read, “After a thorough review of our existing portfolio, we’ve decided to close a series of clubs and better align our locations with our strategy. Closing clubs is never easy and we’re committed to working with impacted members and associates through this transition.”