Breaking: Walmart taking over Elwood warehouse; 589 workers affected

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The operator of the massive Walmart warehouse in Elwood has issued a layoff notice for 589 employees as management of the facility is turned over to the retailer.

Walmart plans to hire "as many people as possible" from the existing workforce, a company spokeswoman said.

The 3.4 million-square-foot distribution center consisting of two buildings has been run by Schneider Logistics, which issued a notice to the state this week that it will lay off 589 employees at the facility as of March 31.

"The facility's not closing," said Caroline Portlock, director of the Workforce Investment Board of Will County. "It's anticipated that employees will be offered employment by Walmart."

Just how many workers Walmart will continue to employ is not clear.

Walmart spokeswoman Michelle Malashock issued a statement saying the retailer will take over management of the warehouse on April 6.

"We are currently working through a hiring and selection process with the employees who work at the facility with the hopes of retaining as many people as possible," Malashock said.

The movement from a third-party operator to direct control by Walmart, however, is likely to be welcomed by many labor advocates who have been critical of outsourced warehouse operations and use of temporary employees at local facilities.

"This is a positive, I think," state Rep. Larry Walsh Jr., D-Elwood, said of the plan for the Walmart warehouse.

Walsh said he asked a Walmart representative Friday morning whether the company plans to hire through temporary agencies. He was told Walmart will hire directly but may turn to staffing agencies during peak periods when the warehouse needs seasonal help.

People working for Schneider now will have to reapply for their jobs through Walmart.

"They're offering job opportunities to people employed by Schneider, but they'll have to go through the hiring process again," Walsh said.

Malashock said the change of management is being done to keep up with retail market conditions.

"Retail is changing rapidly, and we are working hard across our entire business to meet the demands of customers and remain competitive for the long term," she said. "One way of doing this is by bringing operation of the distribution center at Elwood, Ill., in-house as Walmart-run facilities on April 6."