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Does Anyone Care?

November 09, 1986

What concerns me about the liquidation of the Gemco stores and their ultimate takeover by the Target division of Dayton-Hudson is not that over 14,000 people in California will lose their jobs and not be re-hired by Target nor that thousands of shoppers will suffer from less competition. What concerns me is that no one seems to care.

There have been no court injunctions to stop the sale of Gemco, which, although losing money, was not going bankrupt. Perhaps if it had gone bankrupt, the liquidation would have been under federal court supervision. Shoppers and cities could have been involved, employees would have known what was going on.

In other takeover cases, cities, state legislators and even ordinary citizens have protested mergers. The city of Burbank, for example, protested the merger of Associated Dry Goods with May Department Stores. With 14,000 people out of work at Gemco, you would think that the union might seek an injunction against the company to show cause for shutting down the stores. I called several of my elected representatives, and, even in a political year, I elicited no concern.

Gemco was just starting to turn the corner in profitability. In the past six months, it hired engineers to redesign stores, workmen to remodel them, advertising managers to find the Gemco niche, and those of us in data-processing to upgrade service to customers.

No one was allowed to finish the job. What kind of board of directors would waste so much shareholders' money in order to improve the business and not see it through? (Just think, millions of dollars worth of computer software written over millions of hours will be wiped off a disk in less than a nanosecond.) Lucky's directors saved their jobs at the expense of 14,000 employees and thousands of Gemco shoppers.

Goldman, Sachs & Co., their New York investment banker, will make millions of dollars while some pregnant California employees will lose not only their jobs but their insurance. So where is the outcry?

U.S. workers want to have pride in their work. Yet there is a sense of failure when what they have worked for is torn down in a week with no recourse, no concern, no notice.



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