‘How can they walk away with millions and leave workers with zero?’: Toys R Us workers say they deserve severance

Toys R Us isn’t paying severance to its 30,000 workers who will lose their jobs because the retailer shuts down, although it doled out millions in government bonuses every week earlier than it filed for chapter. Now, some workers are calling on lawmakers to create new guidelines that may require bankrupt corporations backed by private-equity companies to offer compensation to their workers.

On Friday, greater than a dozen workers met with lawmakers in New Jersey, the place Toys R Us is predicated, to push for severance pay. Workers additionally known as for brand spanking new rules on leveraged buyouts, in addition to windfall taxes that may forestall private-equity companies from working a enterprise into the bottom and then strolling away with enormous sums of cash.

In addition to assembly with lawmakers, staff are making ready to file a declare in chapter court docket subsequent week asking that they be pretty compensated, in accordance with workers’ advocates on the Center for Popular Democracy.

“This is the story of a company – one of the most iconic in America – that was saddled with so much debt that it could not succeed,” Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., stated at a Friday occasion within the car parking zone of a Toys R Us in Totowa, New Jersey. “And now the big guys are walking away and the workers are left with nothing.”

Much of Toys R Us’ troubles, staff say, date again to a 2005 leveraged buyout by which its new homeowners – private-equity companies Kohlberg Kravis Roberts and Bain Capital, and actual property agency Vornado Realty Trust – loaded the corporate with greater than $5 billion in debt. The firm filed for chapter final 12 months, citing $7.9 billion in debt towards $6.6 billion in belongings, and introduced in March that it will shut all 800 of its U.S. shops.

On Friday, Booker and different New Jersey lawmakers submitted a letter to the heads of these companies, urging them to “do right by the company’s workers.”

“I have always been proud to work at Toys R Us, but this is not Toys R Us – this is KKR and Bain Capital,” Tracy Auerbach, a retailer supervisor in Chandler, Arizona, who has been working on the firm for 31 years, stated throughout a press convention on Capitol Hill final month. “This is Wall Street greed. How can they walk away with millions and leave 33,000 workers with zero?”

Last 12 months, Toys R Us awarded executives $eight million in bonuses every week earlier than submitting for chapter. A number of months later, the corporate bought approval from a chapter decide to pay as much as $21 million in extra bonuses to executives if they met sure efficiency objectives. (That cash was by no means awarded as a result of the corporate’s efficiency fell quick.) Chief government Dave Brandon acquired $11.25 million in compensation final 12 months.

Toys R Us is one in all dozens of private-equity backed retailers to file for chapter since final 12 months, as heavy debt hundreds and elevated competitors take their toll on the business. Others which have filed for chapter following leveraged buyouts embody Nine West, Claire’s, Gymboree, True Religion and Payless Shoe Source.

In the case of Toys R Us, monetary filings present that the corporate was handing over $400 million a 12 months to pay again its debt, typically on the expense of turning a revenue. Recently, it was burning by $50 million to $100 million in money every month because it tried to dig its approach out, in accordance with court docket paperwork filed in March. The retailer additionally paid $470 million in advisory charges, curiosity and different funds to Bain Capital, KKR and Vornado since 2005. The companies didn’t reply to requests for remark.

“Something is seriously wrong with this type of economy,” Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., stated on the Friday occasion. “How many employees at Bain are now worrying about how they’ll pay for daycare? How many employees over at KKR don’t have the cash to fill up their gas tank to go out looking for jobs?”

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