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Laid-off Sears workers left nothing – and they say rich bosses owe | Business

O Ndrea Patrick had worked at Kmart in Rockford, Illinois for nine years. In September, Patricks store announced that it…

O Ndrea Patrick had worked at Kmart in Rockford, Illinois for nine years. In September, Patricks store announced that it would close when the owner, Sears Holdings, fought to fall and increase the debt.

One month later, Sears, once the world’s largest retailer and part of America’s cultural fabric for over 100 years, filed for bankruptcy &#821

1; putting thousands of workers’ jobs at risk.

Patrick said, “I am a mother who has four biological children and a stepton and my income is all we have. When you remove our single income, you leave us nothing – and we deserve nothing. Mental and physical pull it on you. It’s like you’re not good enough. And we’re all good enough. “

Sheila Brewer worked at the same Kmart in Rockford for 17 years as a full-time employee. Four weeks to receive severance pay, a bankruptcy terminated the rest of the payments. Meanwhile, Sears bosses have requested to receive up to $ 25 million in bonuses.

Brewer said, “It was a big twelve emotional and economical. It’s a big blow in the face, they say I can not get the rest of my farewell because of bankruptcy.”

“But they petition in court for to get bonuses for the managers when the money could go into a plan or some form of full-time and part-time package contracts to receive any kind of package. [It would help] to pay bills to help us get back on our feet. “


Since their store has closed, Patrick and Brewer have joined Rise Up Retail, a coalition of retailers who work for better wages and conditions that have become stronger among brutal layoffs for workers at Toys R Us and other retailers this year. Retail layoffs even come as unemployment has fallen to its lowest level since 1969.

Andrew Challenger, vice president of outlay firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, said traditional retail had been the biggest job seeker for three years in a row. More than 92,000 jobs have gone this year already and more are coming. Sears plans to close 188 stores nationwide at the end of 2018.

Retailers employ large numbers – but for warehouse workers, logistics and technical jobs as shopping moves more and more online, Challenger said. “But I do not want to minimize these losses. Many people are in rural communities and affect people who do not have the skills that retailers now want. These jobs will never be back.”

But it’s not just the internet that did for Sears. Its failure comes with its own specific problems.

When Sears and Kmart merged in 2005, the company operated nearly 3500 US stores. In February this year, the number had dropped to over 1,000. The merger was orchestrated by billionaire fund manager Edward Lampert, who served as CEO of Sears Holdings from 2013 until when the company was filed for bankruptcy.

Lampert’s monitoring of Sears Holdings since the merger with Kmart has been criticized as the reason for Sears bankruptcy and massive closures stores.

Rise Up Retail-backed former Toys R Us employees to win a $ 20 million severance pay for more than 30,000 workers who lost their jobs when the bankruptcy company closed 800 stores. Photography: Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

Carrie Gleason, Campaign Manager for Rise Up Retail, said: “Eddie Lampert and his hedge fund have destroyed Sears. This was a company that had many profitable companies, definitely parts that fought for the necessary investment. Instead Eddie let Lampert let the stores be free, remove the viable parts of the business and let everything else go into the field. “

As Sears CEO, Chairman, Banker, Landlord and Transaction Partner, Lampert has managed to transfer many of Sears’s assets to himself and sell others .

In 2015, he sold the property to more than 250 Sears retailers and other real estate properties to Real Estate Investment Fund, Seritage Properties, which is 43.5% of Lampert Hedge Fund. Sears has paid the fund an annual rent of 134 billion, with 2% annual increases beginning in 2017. Since Lampert’s hedge fund extended the credit to Sears, supported by at least 46 Sears properties, Lampert could be granted the right to these properties in the bankruptcy proceedings.

In 2014, Lampert Sears’s profitable clothing company sold Lands End to itself as the main shareholder. In January 2017, Lampert concluded an agreement to sell Sears’ Craftsman brand to Stanley Black & Decker for $ 900 million, which was used to pay Sears creditors, including Lampert.

As Lampert made efforts to transfer Sears valuable assets to himself, the retailer suffered a drastic investment shortage that prevented his ability to adapt to the changing retail business.


Workers blame the cash spill for their situation. “I could say that this company was not managed properly. They just did not care about the employees,” said Bob Bruns, who worked at a Sears store in Cincinnati as a merchandising and backroom associate from 2010 to 2014. The store closed too well in April 2018. “This was evident in their lack of investment in business infrastructure and not updating technology.”

Lampert and his hedge fund, ESL Investments, have borrowed Sears about $ 2.66 billion, making Lampert the company’s main creditor as stands for profit from Sears bankruptcy and final liquidation. In August, Lampert offered $ 400 million to buy Sears Kenmore brand and $ 70 million to $ 80 million for Sears home service.

“The dynamic at the moment is very similar to what happened to Toys R Us. There was a push for reorganization, there were profitable business offers, but the creditors run for liquidation because they would make more money that way,” added Gleason.

Rise Up Retail-supported previous toys R Us employees in winning a $ 20m receipt for more than 30,000 workers who lost their jobs when the bankruptcy company closed 800 stores. “We could save tens of thousands of jobs, but creditors want cash to pay them.”

At present, some 68,000 workers remain with Sears, but their future is uncertain after the holiday season, while several other workers are still disturbing from last shop closures.

“I’ve worked at Kmart for three years and it has been three years in my life. I’ve been working hard and sacrificed in the deal.” It has been very depressing, says Noemi Castro, whose store in Los Angeles was closed on November 28

She said that during the closing process, the store was consistently understaffed and ignored by the management. “As much as I would like to pass by, Kmart was three years of my life that will always be there.”

Sears did not respond immediately on multiple requests for comments.

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