Everlane Responds to Backlash From Bernie Sanders Over Layoffs Amid Coronavirus Pressures

Everlane has issued a statement as it faces backlash from Bernie Sanders following sweeping layoffs amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The clothing and accessories company, which let go of about 290 people in the last week, made headlines in recent days over its decision to lay off, with severance pay, roughly 40 of its remote part-time “customer experience” team members who were in the midst of unionizing.

Everlane, whose business, like many others, has been struggling in the past few weeks as the coronavirus threat forced store closures across the country, converted the remaining 20 customer experience positions into full-time jobs with benefits. All part-time associates across the brand were eliminated, while all full-time workers were furloughed and retain their benefits.

“COVID-19 has dramatically impacted the entire world, and Everlane is no exception,” Derris, the New York-based PR agency behind Everlane, wrote to FN. “Our retail stores closed indefinitely and total revenue is off our original plan by 25%.”

It added, “These decisions had nothing to do with the unionization effort and everything to do with the dramatic impact COVID-19 has had on the global economy.”

The statement comes two days after a group of Everlane workers launched a GoFundMe page seeking support after they wrote that they were laid off “without warning or notice” on Friday. In its fundraising campaign, the group that was unionizing wrote that Everlane had dismissed employees a few days after it asked for voluntary recognition from the company.

“While we are absolutely happy that a portion of our team was able to secure full-time positions, the rest of us have been left to find ways to make ends meet during a pandemic in which seeking a new job is nearly impossible,” the workers wrote.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is running for president, had criticized the brand and urged it to recognize the union. Over the weekend, he tweeted that “using this health and economic crisis to union bust is morally unacceptable.”

Responding to Sanders, Everlane said, “This was the hardest decision we’ve ever made.” It added a note from founder Michael Preysman, who wrote that the company is “not profitable” and does “not have a cash balance.” The company shut down its outposts two weeks ago.

As the coronavirus continues to spread across the United States, an increasing number of retailers and brands, including Nordstrom and Steve Madden, have not only been forced to shutter their doors but also announce layoffs, furloughs and/or pay cuts to help keep their businesses afloat. New federal “social distancing” guidelines have extended restrictions on large gatherings and crowded workplaces for another 30 days through the end of April.

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