SEARS EMPLOYEES PEN LETTER TO FORMER CEO EDDIE LAMPERT,
CALL FOR A MEETING AND A SEAT AT THE TABLE
NATIONWIDE — Today, ahead of yet another wave of stores closing since Eddie Lampert won his bid on Sears, Sears and Kmart employees sent a letter to Lampert asking the hedge fund manager and former Sears and Kmart CEO to meet with them and discuss their ideas for the future of the company. Employees also called on Lampert to protect their livelihoods and commit to building the company up — not continuing to tear it down — as the future of the company remains uncertain in the wake of a bankruptcy process Lampert precipitated.
“Many of us have had our lives turned upside down and fallen into economic crisis as our stores were shut down and we waited patiently for the meager severance checks that never arrived,” Sears and Kmart employees assert in today’s letter. “We ask that you meet with us to listen to our ideas to rebuild a greater, more prosperous Sears for all of us, as well as how to support those whose jobs were recently destroyed to make sure they can get back on their feet.”
A Kmart in Asheville North Carolina will close its doors for good on March 10 — nearly 100 jobs will be lost as a result of this most recent closure, a prime example of why current Kmart and Sears and Kmart employes feel their livelihoods aren’t secure and why they don’t trust that Lampert or his hedge fund ESL can run the company successfully without input from and accountability to employees.
“Hourly employees shouldn’t have to watch from the sidelines as billionaires and hedge funds make decisions to drive the source of our livelihoods into the ground,” said Gabe Maguire, a United for Respect leader and Kmart associate whose store closes in Asheville, NC this weekend. “If we, the employees who made Sears successful for decades, were consulted about what was really needed to make our stores successful again, maybe my store wouldn’t be closing.
Last month, US Bankruptcy Judge Robert Drain approved Lampert’s $5.2-billion bid to buy back the same company he drove into bankruptcy, however, the remaining 45,000 employees and their families face continued financial uncertainty. While Lampert has blamed Sears’ downfall on factors like competition from online retail, the recession, the company’s pension obligations, and retired workers, multiple analysts have pinned the blame on Lampert himself.
Eddie Lampert orchestrated one of the biggest Wall Street heists in American history through his hedge fund ESL Investments by extracting short-term profits to benefit ESL and investors while slowly running Sears and Kmart into the ground after gaining control in 2005. He depleted the retailer almost entirely of its cash reserve, spent $6 billion in stock buybacks, and stripped Sears of valuable assets by selling them to corporate entities where he held majority stakes.
Joining with United for Respect, former and current Sears and Kmart employees across the nation are taking bold action to protect the remaining 45,000 employees by calling for representation on Sears’ corporate board to ensure Lampert prioritizes the long-term viability of the company over short-term profits for himself or other Wall Street billionaires. Building on the playbook from the movement of Toys ‘R’ Us workers who fought for and won a historic $20 million hardship fund from KKR and Bain Capital, they are also calling on Lampert to set up a hardship fund to provide financial relief to all employees, including part-time employees, who lost their jobs as a result of store closures in 2018.