August 11, 2020

The Honorable David R. Jones,
United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Texas
Corpus Christi Division,
1133 N. Shoreline Blvd,
Corpus Christi, TX 78401

In Re: J. C. PENNEY COMPANY, INC., et al.

Dear Judge Jones,

We are current and former retail employees and write to ask that the Court prioritize job retention in approving bids on J.C. Penney’s assets.

We have lived through the bankruptcy and liquidation of our private equity-owned retail companies, which includes Sears, Kmart, Toys ‘R’ Us, and Gymboree. We know the toll that a retail bankruptcy takes on our lives and our long-term financial stability. Some of us were planning to retire from our retail jobs and had to re-enter the job market for the first time in decades. Others of us struggled to make ends meet and provide for our children for over a year after losing our jobs. All of us experienced prolonged unemployment, took positions that paid less than the retail jobs we had worked hard at, or both. Job retention was an afterthought in each of our retail bankruptcies. However we believe that preserving jobs must be a central consideration during the bankruptcy process, as well as the bidder’s history of building and retaining jobs in their other holdings. 

We do not want to see the same patterns repeat with J.C. Penney. The lives of the 90,000 of employees of J.C. Penney have been dramatically impacted by events of recent months. Beyond temporary store closings, J.C. Penney permanently shed thousands of jobs when it announced in June that it was closing 154 stores permanently.

J.C. Penney’s bankruptcy filing creates great uncertainty for employees who, like us, in some cases devoted decades to serving customers.

We understand that J.C. Penney is currently considering bids from multiple potential buyers for its operations.

In late July, the New York Post reported that private equity firm Sycamore Partners is the lead bidder among the three companies that have submitted bids for J.C. Penney, noting that “The Sycamore plan involves rebranding some 250 JCPenney stores to Belk stores in markets where the two retailers don’t overlap. The rest of the JCPenney locations would be liquidated.”

J.C. Penney operated 850 stores when it filed for bankruptcy protection on May 15.

The store closing JCPenney announced in June will lead to around 15,000 job losses.

Liquidating 446 more stores under the Sycamore Partners plan would result in another 44,000 permanent job losses at J.C. Penney.

Millions of Americans have lost their jobs in recent months and the unemployment rate stands at 11.1%.

Sycamore Partners has a history of stripping assets from retailers, leading to store closures and layoffs at retailers like Nine West and Aeropostale.  Sycamore Partners owns Belk, a company that one of us are currently furloughed from during the COVID-19 pandemic. Under Sycamore’s ownership, Belk has shut down stores and laid off hundreds of employees.

Selling J.C. Penney to an asset stripper that will shed 44,000 jobs is not what J.C. Penney – or our country – needs right now.

According to the Post, the bids J.C. Penney received are all relatively close in value.

In approving a buyer for J.C. Penney’s operations, we believe the Court should prioritize the buyer that will retain the most jobs and work to the get the historic J.C. Penney brand back on its feet, not one that will lay off 44,000 employees and strip out assets for short term gain.


Members of United for Respect’s Wall Street Accountability Committee: 

Michelle Perez, former Toys “R” Us employee, Vancouver, WA
Bruce Miller, former Sears employee, Toms River, NJ
Bernadette Bergeson, former Kmart employee, Rockford, IL
Alisha Hudson, former Toys “R” Us employee, Lexington, KY
Ann Marie Reinhart, former Toys “R” Us employee and currently Belk employee, Durham, NC
Liz Marin, former Toys “R” Us employee Silverdale, WA
Teena Gutierrez, former Gymboree employee, Davis, CA