WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Democrats and former workers from bankrupt retail giants like Toys R Us and Sears Us are calling out Wall Street.
At a press conference on Capitol Hill Thursday, laid off workers shared stories of unkept promises, saying that instead of helping, private equity firms drained the companies financially to make a quick buck and left them without jobs and benefits.
Among those workers was Jake Soha of Wisconsin, who said his company Shopko is Wall Street’s latest victim. He and thousands of others were laid off in March when a private equity firm took over.
“This is not the future I had imagined and worked so hard to build,” Soha said. “We were a family. We stayed loyal to the company but unfortunately didn’t receive the same loyalty back.”
“These workers deserve better,” Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc., said.
After watching what happened at Shopko, she’s pushing a plan to hold firms accountable. It would prioritize workers’ pay and pensions when a business goes under. She hopes it will prevent private equity firms from profiting from a company’s failure.
“This bold reform will help rewrite the rules of our economy and protect workers from predatory practices,” she said.
Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Sherrod Brown of Ohio are among the slate of Democrats who are rallying behind the bill.
“They don’t honor work, they don’t respect work, they don’t respect workers,” Brown said of the private equity firms.
But Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, a Republican, said Democrats should let the free market do its job.
“If Shopko was financially successful, it would still be in business,” he said. “I don’t have a great deal of faith of the federal government being able to intervene in the marketplace without screwing things up, so my guess is I wouldn’t be supportive (of the bill).”
Even with widespread Democratic support, Johnson said the bill doesn’t stand a chance in the Republican-controlled Senate.