Anthony J. DiNovi
Scott M. Sperling
Thomas H. Lee Partners
100 Federal Street
Boston, MA 02110
Dear Mr. DiNovi and Mr. Sperling,
We are former employees of Art Van.
As you know, our stores were set to close in May 2020 because of Thomas H. Lee’s decision to move Art Van into bankruptcy and liquidation. On March 19, we were informed that the company planned to close three days later on March 22, giving us three days notice. The decision terminated all employees two months early, and excluded eligible employees from their pay and benefits owed under the WARN Act. Art Van cited the COVID-19 outbreak as the reason for moving the date of store closures forward.
Our economy and communities are facing unprecedented challenges during the COVID-19 crisis. Art Van employees already reeling from losing our jobs early are also navigating layoffs in the midst of a global pandemic. Many of us face a range of health issues, from living with pre-existing conditions like diabetes, asthma, and cancer, to recovering from surgery, and currently supporting pregnant and new mothers. Currently, these conditions classify many Art Van employees as immune-compromised and in at-risk categories for contracting, and experiencing severe complications from, COVID-19.
This is why we believe it is Thomas H. Lee’s responsibility to extend health insurance benefits to all employees, not only those in WARN stores, for 90 days and to create a fund to cover out-of-pocket costs for health-related expenses that former employees incur. In the midst of this crisis, it is imperative that employees retain their health benefits. For many, it may literally be a matter of life and death.
Navigating layoffs and unemployment is difficult under any circumstances. Losing income and health insurance while a highly contagious respiratory illness spreads across the country, and has claimed over 14,000 lives is an unimaginable burden that we should not bear alone.
State legislatures are recognizing the toll of layoffs on employees and have implemented new measures to support workers through layoffs. For example, the New Jersey legislature passed a mandatory severance law earlier this year. Were Art Van based in New Jersey, the law would have mandated compensation to support us during this transition.
Furthermore, at this moment, private equity firms and trade groups, including the American Investment Council, are lobbying Congress to allow billion-dollar private equity firms to acquire stimulus bailout money reserved for small businesses. While private equity companies argue that they deserve taxpayer-funded bailouts to tide them over during a pandemic, employees of private equity-owned retail companies such as Art Van have lost everything and are being denied severance and vacation pay, and even final paychecks.
Thomas H. Lee Partners can do the right thing and extend health insurance benefits to over 3,000 employees who lost their jobs due to the bankruptcy and provide a health fund to support us during this difficult moment. It is the right thing to do, and it is the least of what we are owed.
493 of your former Art Van employees