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Campaign Updates

Toys ‘R’ Us Workers Launch Campaign Demanding Justice

Workers and impacted communities call for severance pay, policy solutions to stop corporate abuse


WASHINGTON, DC – Toys ‘R’ Us workers, their allies in Congress and more than 100 community leaders gathered on Capitol Hill today to launch a campaign for justice for working people and communities hurt by the company’s bankruptcy, which is set to put more than 30,000 employees out of work in coming months without severance pay.

Workers traveled from across the country for a press conference and protest calling out the role of Wall Street in loading Toys ‘R’ Us with debt and then driving it into bankruptcy. In coming months, the campaign will hold a series of actions at Toys ‘R’ Us headquarters and the offices of leading private equity firms, urging policymakers to take steps to prevent further job losses. The campaign is driven and supported by Organization United for Respect (OUR) and the Fair Workweek Initiative at the Center for Popular Democracy (CPD).

“Retail workers are sick and tired of having to pay for Wall Street greed,” said Carrie Gleason, Director of the Fair Workweek Initiative at the Center for Popular Democracy. “Private equity companies like KKR and Bain Capital have created massive job losses across the country for a quick profit while the workers walk away with nothing. We need to treat retail workers with dignity and respect, and that’s why we’re here.”

Today’s day of action brought Toys ‘R’ Us workers from Michigan, Arizona, Texas, North Carolina, and California to Washington, DC to meet with Members of Congress, including Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT), Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), 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 also led a protest at the American Investment Council, the organization representing private equity firms such as KKR and Bain Capital, who helped push Toys ‘R’ Us into bankruptcy while pocketing millions in the liquidation. The $470 million would be enough to pay more than $14,000 in severance to each employee losing their job.

“Retail workers are already poorly paid. To be let go without any severance is devastating. Not knowing how you're going to pay your rent, feed your family and pay your bills is absolutely humiliating. Now some of us now may be forced to seek some public assistance,” said Ann Marie Reinhart, a Toys ‘R’ Us worker from Durham, North Carolina.

The private equity industry has helped drive the so-called “retail apocalypse” by saddling companies with debt, charging them exorbitant fees, and then forcing them into bankruptcy. Private equity-induced debt has caused more than three out of five recent retail bankruptcies. The bankruptcy and planned closure of Toys ‘R’ Us itself was driven by a crippling $5 billion debt

"Bain Capital, KKR, and Vornado need to be held accountable for the lives they’re destroying. Congress needs to start doing their jobs," said Debbie Beard, a Toys ‘R’ Us assistant manager from Phoenix, Arizona.

In May and June, workers, community groups, and Members of Congress will continue to raise the pressure on the company, with actions planned at TRU headquarters in New Jersey as well as at the offices of KKR and Bain Capital in New York City. More than 50,000 supporters have already signed a petition supported by CREDO Action calling for Toys R Us workers to receive severance pay. Maine Public Employees Retirement System, CalPERS, PA Public School Employees Retirement System, and the University of California are all looking into the issue.

“The retail industry is in crisis, but it doesn’t have to be this way,” said Pilar Barragan, a member of Organization United for Respect. “We’re standing with Toys R Us workers to fight for severance pay and urging Congress to regulate Wall Street and do what’s right to prevent another worker, family, and community from living day by day not knowing if there’s a tomorrow.”


Media Contact:

Tyler Prell, tprell@populardemocracy.org, 202-210-1203