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- Forever 21’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing cast the struggling fast-fashion retailer as the embodiment of the American Dream.
- But Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders isn’t having it.
- On Tuesday he took company founders Do Won and Jin Sook Chang to task on Twitter, saying, “All Forever 21 workers must be paid their fair share.”
- Forever 21 previously announced that as many as 178 stores in the US could close as a result of the bankruptcy.
- Up to 350 additional locations around the world will also shutter.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Sen. Bernie Sanders excoriated Forever 21 founders Do Won and Jin Sook Chang on Twitter Tuesday, tweeting that while the wealthy couple won’t “suffer as a result of filing for bankruptcy,” laid-off workers will.
The billionaire owners of Forever 21 won't suffer as a result of filing for bankruptcy. The thousands of workers losing their jobs will.
We must stand workers and against the greed of Wall Street and the billionaire class. All Forever 21 workers must be paid their fair share. https://t.co/TEJ53Ojm0f
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) October 1, 2019
And he wasn’t the only one to sound off. Aneta Molenda of the workers’ advocacy group United for Respect also published a tweet encouraging Forever 21 employees to get organized.
Dear Forever 21 employees:
Don’t let the company rob you of your dignity & livelihood as your stores begin liquidation.
Toys R Us workers did it last summer—and we won $20 million in severance pay.
There is power in numbers! We got your back. My DMs are open.
— Aneta Molenda (@AnetaMolenda) September 30, 2019
It’s a stark contrast to Forever 21’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing on Sunday, which laid out the case for the retailer’s founders embodying “the American Dream.”
The filing goes so far as to define the American Dream, citing Investopedia’s definition: “the belief that anyone, regardless of where they were born or what class they were born into, can attain their own version of success in a society where upward mobility is possible for everyone. The American Dream is achieved through sacrifice, risk-taking, and hard work, rather than by chance.”
Forever 21 didn’t immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment on Sanders’ comments. But the brand’s bankruptcy filing prominently showcased the Changs’ origins as entrepreneurial South Korean immigrants who arrived in Los Angeles in 1981.
Forbes reported that the Changs were worth $3 billion as of March 4, 2019. They were no longer billionaires as of July, according to Forbes’ estimates, but the filing emphasized their working class and entrepreneurial origins.
Calling its founders a “rare and exemplary model” of the American Dream, the filing paints the picture of the couple saving up enough money working service jobs to launch a 900-square-foot-store called Fashion 21 in 1984.
Sanders’ stated concerns lie more with the service industry employees currently working for the Changs. The Chapter 11 filing says that Forever 21 employs a total of 32,800 employees – that’s about 6,400 full-time workers and around 26,400 part-time workers. If 178 US stores go under, as is possible if Forever 21 is not successful in its rent negotiations, that leaves a substantial number of employees at risk of losing their jobs.
In the Forever 21 filing, the Changs say they achieved the American Dream through hard work. But, according to Sanders, the Forever 21 founders and their fellow business moguls are ensuring that the working class – the very people whose socioeconomic status the Changs used to share – are getting shut out of that same dream.
“We must stand workers and against the greed of Wall Street and the billionaire class,” Sanders wrote in the tweet. “All Forever 21 workers must be paid their fair share.”