United for Respect released the following statement in remembrance of
Ann Marie Reinhart Smith, a leader in the effort to hold private equity accountable for its destructive impact on the retail industry. She died from Covid-19 on February 17.
Ann Marie was a working class hero of our time.
“We are devastated about the passing of a great fighter and our valued leader, Ann Marie Reinhart Smith. Her tireless spirit as an advocate for workers’ rights, and the care and love she shared with everyone in our movement, helped to put national focus on private equity’s destructive role in the retail industry.
After private equity companies KKR and Bain Capital bankrupted Toys ‘R’ Us, Ann Marie took her fight from her home in Durham, North Carolina to the rest of the country. From Washington, D.C. where she met with policymakers like Senators Sanders and Warren, to marches on Wall Street, to the boardrooms of the private equity firms she was fighting, to the courtroom, Ann Marie never backed down.
She was the plaintiff in the Toys ‘R’ Us bankruptcy case. She helped win an historic $20 million hardship fund from KKR and Bain Capital for the tens of thousands of Toys ‘R’ Us workers who lost their jobs. She was critical in shaping the Stop Wall Street Looting Act.
Her loss is gut wrenching, but it brings us great joy to know that her life’s work and the trail she blazed will continue to inspire, even after her death. She personally organized and trained others who worked at Sears, Payless, and Gymboree to also fight for severance. Because of her leadership, there are many, many more fighters for justice across the country, building and strengthening our movement.
Ann Marie was a working class hero of our time.”
A GoFundMe fundraiser has been established to support Ann Marie’s family during this difficult time.