Today, Forever 21 joins the long list of retail chains to declare bankruptcy. There is a business story about the retail apocalypse, but there is also a human story, about the people about to be left unemployed. We want to hear from you.
Inevitably in retail bankruptcies, the lives of thousands of working people are upended, often with devastating effects. In the case of Forever 21, more than 30,000 full time and part time workers are at risk. The nature of bankruptcy proceedings means that the people who do the work on the ground are often last in line, behind an array of hedge funds and private equity firms and bankers, to get a slice of what they are owed when the business crumbles.
But it is not just a simple story of hopelessness. In recent years, labor organizers have scored significant gains for the working people at bankrupt companies, running highly visible public campaigns to win concessions for employees of doomed retailers like Toys R Us and Sears. (Already, the same organizers are putting out feelers for Forever 21 employees.) These campaigns have proven that even in non-union workplaces, political and PR pressures can be brought to bear to win at least a minimal safety net for those who have just seen their jobs destroyed by forces that they have nothing to do with.
In order for people to care about the incessant decline of traditional retail jobs in America, they must know that this is not just a story of consumer preferences and technology and creative financing, but also a story of lives disrupted by the normal evolution of capitalism—a process that happens continually, but which we have utterly failed to protect people from. Forever 21, a company founded by billionaires, says that it plans to close as many as 178 stores in the U.S. Do you work at one of these stores? What are you going to do? How is your life going to change? What are your plans? What is the company doing to help you? How are you being treated? What will this mean for you?
If you are a Forever 21 employee, I want to hear from you—about what this bankruptcy means for you, what you’re hearing, what your plans are, and what your life has been like before, and will be like now. I am happy to keep you anonymous if you so choose. Email me. Speak up. Wall Street will not do it for you.
Reach me at Hamilton@SplinterNews.com