Welcome to Interviews for Resistance. We’re now more than a year into the Trump administration, and activists have scored some important victories in those months. Yet there is always more to be done, and for many people, the question of where to focus and how to help remains. In this series, we talk with organizers, agitators and educators not only about how to resist but also about how to build a better world. Today’s interview is the 122nd in the series. Click here for the most recent interview before this one.
Today we bring you a conversation with Debbie Beard, an assistant manager at Babies “R” Us in Phoenix, Arizona, and Carrie Gleason, director of the Fair Workweek Initiative at the Center for Popular Democracy. They discuss how leveraged buyout of Toys “R” Us hurt tens of thousands of retail workers and how a new campaign is fighting back to demand justice for these employees.
Sarah Jaffe: Start out, Debbie, tell us about your time at Toys “R” Us and Babies “R” Us, and what has changed with the company over time?
Debbie Beard: I have been here 29 years. I started as a seasonal employee. I walked in and was hired in five minutes. I have pretty much held almost any position in the stores that [was] available…. It had always been a family-oriented company until it went from public to private in 2005, when Bain Capital and KKR bought out the company, along with Vornado. Once that happened, we started losing the family part of the company. They didn’t really seem to care too much about investing time in the employees or anything. They restructured, as they say, which normally happens on a buyout like that. But full-time people lost positions, benefits and things like that.
When the latest round of financial difficulties began, leading to them saying that they are going to close stores — walk us through when you heard about that, when…