O [Patrick] had worked for nine years at Kmart in Rockford, Illinois. In September, Patrick's Store announced that its business, Sears Holdings, should be closed, struggling with falling sales and rising debt.
A month later, Sears was once the largest retailer in the world and for over 100 years part of the American cultural fabric, filed for bankruptcy ̵
Patrick said, "I am a mother who has four birth children and one stepson. If you take away our only income, leave nothing to us – and we will not earn anything. Mentally and physically it attracts you. It's like saying you're not good enough. And we are all good enough.
Sheila Brewer worked for 17 years as a full-time employee in the same Kmart in Rockford. After four weeks severance pay, a bankruptcy court received the remainder of the payments. In the meantime, Sears executives have applied for premiums of up to $ 25 million.
Brewer said, "It was a big drain on the money and finances. It's a big slap in the face, they tell me that I can not get the rest of my severance due to bankruptcy.
"Nevertheless, they have applied for a premium in court if this money could go into a plan or a kind of package for full-time and part-time employees to get a package. [It would help] Paying bills to get us back on our feet. "
Since the store closed, Patrick and Brewer have joined Rise Up Retail, an association of retailers committed to better wages and working conditions, and strength through brutal layoffs for Toys R Us workers and other retailers this year have won. The dismissal from the retail sector is even falling, as the unemployment rate fell to its lowest level since 1969.
Andrew Challenger, vice president of outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, said traditional retailing has been the largest number of jobs for three years. More than 92,000 jobs have been done this year and more is coming. Sears plans to close 188 stores nationwide by the end of 2018.
Retailers are hiring a large number of people – but warehouse workers, logistics and tech jobs are seeing more and more online purchases, Challenger said. "But I do not want to minimize those losses. Many are in rural communities and affect people who do not have the skills retailers want now. These jobs will never come back. "
However, it's not just the Internet that has provided Sears. His failure has its own particular problems.
When Sears and Kmart merged in 2005, the company operated nearly 3,500 US retail stores. By February of this year, this number had dropped to just over 1,000. The merger was staged by billionaire hedge fund manager Edward Lampert, who served as CEO of Sears Holdings from 2013 until his bankruptcy filing.
Since merging with Kmart, Lampert's oversight of Sears Holdings has been criticized for Sears' bankruptcy and massive closure of stores.
Carrie Gleason, campaign manager for Rise Up Retail, said, "Eddie Lampert and his hedge fund have destroyed Sears. This was a company that had many profitable businesses, definitely parts that had difficulty fighting for investment. Instead, Eddie Lampert let the shops become barren, removed the viable parts of the business, and dropped everything else to the ground.
As Sears CEO, chairman, banker, landlord and transaction partner, Lampert managed to transfer many of them to Sears' assets for themselves and others.
In 2015, he sold the properties of more than 250 Sears retail outlets and other corporate real estate to the property investment fund Seritage Properties, which is 43.5% owned by the Lampert Hedge Fund. Sears has paid the fund an annual rent of $ 134 million, with an annual increase of 2% from 2017. As Lampert's hedge fund has lent to Sears, which is supported by at least 46 Sears properties, Lampert could the rights to these properties received in the bankruptcy proceedings.
In 2014, Lampert sold the viable clothing company Land's End of Sears as the principal shareholder in itself. In January 2017, Lampert entered into an agreement to sell the Sears & # 39; Craftsman brand to Stanley Black & Decker for $ 900 million, which paid the Sears (including Lampert) creditors.
When Lampert sought to transfer Sears's valuable assets to Sears itself, the retailer suffered from a drastic investment shortage that hindered its ability to adapt to the changing retail economy.
The workers accuse the cash outflow for their plight. "I could say that this company was not managed properly. They just did not seem to care about employees, "said Bob Bruns, who worked as a merchandising and backroom associate at a Sears store in Cincinnati from 2010 to 2014. The business was finally closed in April 2018 its lack of investment in the store infrastructure and not updating the technology. "
Lampert and its hedge fund ESL Investments has granted Sears $ 2.66 billion in loans. As a result, Lampert is the principal creditor of the company, which may benefit from Sears' bankruptcy and final liquidation. In August, Lampert offered $ 400 million to purchase the Sears Kenmore appliance brand and another $ 70 to $ 80 million to Sears' Home Services division.
"The dynamics are now very similar to those of Toys R Us. There was a push for reorganization, there were sound business deals, but creditors were pushing for liquidation because they would make more money that way, "Gleason added.
Rise Up Retail helped former employees of Toys R Us withdraw A $ 20 million settlement For more than 30,000 workers who lost their jobs when the bankrupt company closed 800 stores, "We could save tens of thousands of jobs, but the creditors want to liquidate them so they can get paid."
There are still around 68,000 workers at Sears, but their future is uncertain after Christmas, while some other workers are still fighting recently closed store closures.
"I've been working at Kmart for three years, and I've had tough three years of my life It was really depressing, "said Noemi Castro, whose shop closed in Los Angeles on November 28th.
She said the store was constantly understaffed and ignored by management during the closure process. "As much as I would like to pass by, Kmart was three years of my life that will always be there."
Sears did not respond immediately to several calls for comment.