Laid-off Sears workers push for hardship fund
- As Sears Holding Corp. faces possible liquidation, its workers are pushing for severance pay in the form of a hardship fund, NBCNews reported. The giant retailer's approximately 68,000 employees hope to be as successful as Toys R Us workers, who won $20 million in severance pay from the bankrupt company. Sears’ laid-off workers want one week’s pay for each year of service.
- Sears, one of several retailers to file for bankruptcy in the past year, is considering a takeover bid from Chairman Edward Lampert to hold off a liquidation that would close down the company. Lampert submitted a revised proposal on Jan. 10 that included funds to cover additional severance costs, Retail Dive reported.
- Rise Up Retail, a campaign from the labor group Organization United for Respect, demanded financial help for workers in a letter to Lampert and creditors. The campaign also wants states and the federal government to pass legislation requiring bankrupt companies to make severance payments to laid-off workers. "When I saw that Toys 'R' Us employees were able to get so much public support and win some financial assistance for their families through that fund, I knew we needed to fight back," Gabe Maguire, another Kmart worker, told NBCNews.
The mass closing of several big-name stores comes on the heels of major retailers adjusting to a tight labor market. Some have offered hourly workers slight to moderate pay increases, paid family leave, training programs and flexible work schedules to attract and retain workers. And although the retail industry expects to lose upward of 7.5 million jobs in the future to automation, according to a 2017 Cornerstone Capital Group study, the current demand for retail workers is still high. This means retailers must continue to do what's possible to continue attracting and retaining applicants.
Employers may continue to see more laid-off workers fighting for hardship severance pay since the success of the Toys R Us workers' campaign. While movement at the federal level has been slow on all matters regarding employment law, state and local governments have notoriously picked up the slack in some areas.