January 12, 2021
Dear Mr. Cliff Longley:
We are Art Van Furniture employees, both eligible and excluded from the Art Van employee hardship fund, and we want to thank you for responding to our previous letter from December 2020. After reviewing your reply, we can’t help but bring up our concerns regarding the fund and we’re writing to you again to follow up. The simple fact is that TH Lee can and should do more. As we had previously mentioned, while the creation of a hardship fund was an important step, the one-time payment of $400 is grievously lacking and fails to address the immediate and real hardship that thousands of former employees are still facing. It’s also important to clarify that the hardship fund was something that came about only after over 600 ArtVan employees wrote THL calling for extended health care coverage after our jobs were destroyed.
In terms of the fund, we have learned that many former ArtVan employees have had problems with applying for the fund or have not yet received their money. Many of them have been having problems with the application process and there seems to be confusion around the employee ID number that is required in the application. We would like to work with you to address these serious issues. Specifically, we ask that you provide us with a list of all the eligible employees with their ID numbers so that we can help assist those folks who have not been able to apply or that have had their applications denied because of ID error. We also feel very strongly that the deadline date for the fund needs to be extended in order to ensure that everyone who is eligible for the fund has an opportunity to apply. From your response, only about half of the qualifying applicants have been compensated. Having a deadline of Jan 31, 2021 will make it nearly impossible to get the rest of the applicants.
We are deeply disappointed by your response regarding THL fundraising efforts. Fundraising was an idea that was brought to the table by THL and, as we discussed, THL and THL alone has relationships with bankers and creditors who were involved in ArtVan’s purchase and liquidation. Have you asked them to contribute? In regards to the ArtVan family, we would also like for you to reach out to them to see if they will contribute even though they are under no obligation having sold their 59-year old company to THL only to see it driven into bankruptcy a short three years later.
Regarding your response to the flex spending accounts management, it’s disappointing that THL is not taking responsibility for repaying former employees’ contributions that we made with our own money for our health care. Saying THL was only an “investor in ArtVan” is inaccurate
According to press reports, THL was deeply involved in the key decisions in the management of ArtVan; a former executive said: “The first thing (Thomas H. Lee) did was start cutting costs and cutting people…” Please also recall that our sick days were capped on March 10th – at the start of the pandemic, to only sick day for 8 weeks. Our funds and time off that we had earned were unjustly taken from us. Your website has an entire page devoted to “Responsible Investing” and your stewardship of the portfolio companies you own. THL must take responsibility for repaying us for FSA funds that we contributed.
Because we can all agree that this fund, at the current funding level, does little to support employees, we urge THL to call on potential funders to contribute. But if they do not, we are again calling on Thomas H. Lee Partners to ensure that all former Art Van employees receive at least $1500 each. Due to the pending closing date of the hardship fund of January 31, 2021, we urgently ask you that you reply to us within 72 hours so that we can have sufficient time to sort out unresolved concerns.
Art Van Committee
Swartz Creek, MI
Clinton Twp., MI
Sterling Heights, MI
Cc: Mr. Abbrecht, Mr. DiNovi and Mr. Sperling