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05/30/2018 | Restoring a Fair Workweek

CPD Network Stands with Toys R Us Workers in Washington, DC

Toys R Us workers, their allies in Congress and more than 100 community leaders gathered on Capitol Hill on May 9 to demand accountability of Wall Street for its role in causing the economic instability of working families and communities across the country.

Uniting with CPD affiliate Organization United for Respect (OUR), the workers kicked off a powerful campaign, Rise Up Retail, to demand that the private equity owners of Toys R Us pay severance for all Toys R Us workers and to call on members of Congress to outlaw exploitative Wall Street speculative deals. A video of the workers’ meeting with Sen. Bernie Sanders has already garnered over 2 million views. The action was covered in the New York Times, Crain’s Detroit, CBS, Bloomberg, UPI, and Racked.

Private equity companies KKR & Co., Bain Capital, and Vornado Realty Trust bought the iconic toy seller in 2005 in a leveraged buyout that saddled – and ultimately sank – the company with $5 billion debt.  Thirty-three thousand Toys R Us workers and their families are in crisis as the company liquidates in the third largest retail bankruptcy in history. KKR, Bain and Vornado walked away with a reported $470 million in management fees from the deal.

The day of action brought Toys R Us workers from Michigan, Arizona, Texas, and North Carolina to Washington, DC to meet with Members of Congress, including Sen. Bernie Sanders, Rep. Keith Ellison, and Sen. Sherrod Brown, calling for policymakers to support a windfall profits tax on private equity and hedge funds, as well as strong legal and regulatory action to stop dangerous leveraged buyouts and end stock buybacks that push profits to wealthy investors instead of working people and communities.

Workers are also calling for severance from KKR, Bain Capital, and Vornado Realty Trust They were joined by more than 100 leaders from CPD’s affiliates, and led a lively protest at the American Investment Council, the organization representing private equity firms such as KKR and Bain Capital. The $470 million pocketed by KKR, Bain and Vornado would be enough to pay more than $14,000 in severance to each employee losing his or her job.  

“This fight affects thousands of families just like mine,” said store manager Tracy Forbes. “This fight affects a huge population of mostly hard-working women and single moms who can’t feed their kids, afford rent, or pay their electricity bill.”

In May and June, workers, community groups, and Members of Congress will continue to raise the pressure on the companies, with actions planned at Toys R Us headquarters in New Jersey and at the offices of KKR and Bain Capital in New York City. Institutional investors of KKR and Bain, including Maine Public Employees Retirement System, Cal Public Employees Retirement System, PA Public School Employees Retirement System, and the University of California, are all looking into the issue.