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Shame on you, Forever 21. Put people before profits!

Forever 21

In case you needed another reason to skip the fast fashion, Daily Kos has shared some shameful news about Forever 21’s latest money-saving tactics.

Forever 21 announced  last week that it was going to be shifting all of its full time store associates to part time to help cut back on costs. That might sound like a small change – just a few less hours per week, right? – but going from full time to part time also means that those employees are losing their benefits.

Forever 21 Benefit Cuts Hit Employees Hard

Daily Kos posted a copy of the letter that Forever 21 sent to all of their full time employees. You can click here to read it. On top of cutting their hours, employees are losing:

  • medical benefits
  • dental benefits
  • vision benefits
  • FSA benefits – a program where you pay in pre-tax to an account that you can use for medical expenses. This is another one that sounds small, but I can tell you from experience that it makes a big difference when large medical expenses pop up.
  • disability insurance
  • paid time off

The company is “generously” going to pay employees for any unused paid time off, a small consolation for someone who has just lost thousands of dollars in annual pay and benefits.

The real kicker to this story is that Forever 21 was never in financial trouble. These cuts are clearly a case of corporate greed. They have more than quadrupled their net worth – from $1 billion annually to $4.5 billion – in just a few years, and that was before these deep cuts that affect some of their lowest-paid workers.

It’s shameful, and the best way to tell Forever 21 that you don’t agree with this move is to stop giving them your money.

Forever 21 Alternatives

It’s kind of a bummer though, right? Forever 21 has cute clothes! I know. I have a few things from Forever 21 in my closet, I’ll confess. But! You can still stock your wardrobe with cute clothing without shopping there. Here are some affordable alternatives:

  • Synergy Organic Clothing makes beautiful skirts, dresses, tops, and accessories.
  • If you’re looking for a lower price point, try Velvet Leaf.
  • Shop vintage! You can look for vintage finds on Etsy or at your local thrift store. Need some thrifting tips? Maria has you covered!
  • Make your own. You can buy patterns and sew some of your own clothes, or you can alter pieces that you find at the thrift store or that are already in your closet. Check out these ideas to refashion your wardrobe!
  • H&M – If you’re determined to shop at a fast fashion department store, H&M is a much better choice. They’re integrating organic cotton into their line, and they give full-time benefits to their workers. Even part time H&M workers can get medical benefits along with some other benefits.

What about you guys? Does this news make you want to ditch Forever 21? Where do you find ethical pieces for your wardrobe?

Image Credit: Creative Commons photo by Rajiv Patel

Written by Becky Striepe

My name is Becky Striepe (rhymes with “sleepy”), and I am a crafts and food writer from Atlanta, Georgia with a passion for making our planet a healthier, happier, and more compassionate place to live. My mission is to make vegan food and crafts accessible to everyone!. If you like my work, you can also find me on Twitter, Facebook, and .


  1. Sorry, this was a predictable outcome of a poorly designed law. It was intended to drive people out of their employer based healthcare and onto the public exchanges. In the alternative, they would have to with massively increasing healthcare costs, but cut back on the number of employees. Either way, employees get hosed and its because of a bad law, not a bad business.

    • I have a tough time feeling bad for a company that’s more than quadrupled its net worth in a few years. I’m sorry that you are not a fan of the Affordable Care Act, but the onus here is on Forever 21.

        • That has to be one of the stupidest statements ever made by an elected official (and there is plenty of competition for that dubious honor).

      • Becky obviously doesn’t understand how the free enterprise system works. Companies are in business to make money for their stockholders. Making a profit is not “unethical”. Employment at Forever 21 (or anywhere else in the private sector) is “at will” and their employees are free to seek jobs elsewhere if they don’t care for the employment terms. When health care costs spiral out of control, due to a horribly conceived, written and implemented piece of legislation, companies will do what they have to, to protect their bottom line. It’s not their function to be “fair” or “ethical” or “nice” – it’s their job to make a profit – that’s the definition of business. ObamaCare is either one of the most pathetic excuses for legislation ever to come out of DC, or as bskb indicated above, it was intentionally designed to kill private health care & force everyone onto government exchanges & ultimately, single payer.

      • Becky – r u kidding me?? No one goes into to business soley to provide jobs. Your type of thinking is un-American IMHO.

      • A company which quadruples its profits are GREAT for the economy. Why would you or anyone else not understand this?

        You all want to BOYCOTT, but all that would lead to is every Forever 21 employee losing their job. You people are not getting the big picture. Whether you do not understand the economy, or just don’t have much intelligence at all.

        • Some of us understand economics well enough to know DEMAND drives the economy, not supply. If no one can afford to shop at these places, then eventually they will be bankrupt too. The downward pressure on wages and worker benefits is actually undercutting real economic development. Sure, Wall Street is doing fine swapping piles of money amongst banks and brokers and living off the fees, interests, and dividends…. but the reality is, more and more Americans are slipping out of the middle class, and this has very little to do with lack of education or gumption, it is a direct side effect of wages that have not kept up with inflation for the better part of 30 years.

          • Progressives seem incapable of understanding that the primary reason for declining wages & benefits is the uncertainty caused by the massive amount of regulation and odious legislation coming out of Washington DC. Businesses are sitting on massive amounts of cash & refuse to invest it in infrastructure or hiring because they don’t know what new regulatory hell will next be unleashed on them by the bureaucrats in DC. These guys need to stop trying to implement their social engineering and leftist ideology via legislation & regulation and give businesses what they need – some regulatory stability, certainty & freedom to operate without the heavy hand of Uncle Sam.

    • ObamaCare was designed to fail. The fact that none of the politicians who voted for the thing had the time or bothered to read it proves just how terrible of a law it is. And now, they are exempting themselves from it!

      Blame the politicians for the destruction to our economy that this law is wreaking. Not F21.

  2. This is why I have tree hugging liberals, corporations are in the business to make money and if they want to move their employees to part time because of the Jackass in the Whitehouse and his Obummercare law then so be it……you get what you vore for….CHANCE YOU CAN BELIEVE IN…..Sincerely, ABIC(American Black Informed Conservative)

      • Good luck with that. Obamacare regulates ALL businesses. Either they’ll follow Forever 21’s move, or they’ll not be profitable.

        • This is a false dichotomy. There are plenty of businesses that maintain a large number of full-time employees, pay them a living wage, and provide health care and other decent benefits… Costco, Trader Joes, Whole Foods, Best Buy, etc.

          Anyone who looks at the numbers involved can see that companies like Walmart, Forever 21, Papa Johns, etc can reasonably afford to absorb these costs without even raising prices, or if they did raise prices it would add up to something like an additional 25 cents to 70 cents per customer visit to recoup these costs (wages and benefits currently account for less than 15% of the expenses for most of these kinds of companies to begin with). These places are only looking to the profits and executive compensation to rationalize their decisions, there is little earnest consideration to what the BENEFITS are to having workers who make a living wage and who can see a doctor when they are will… employees who feel like they are assets and have their own pride and integrity in their work place. As a customer it is usually pretty easy to tell which stores are filled with people who are content with their employment and which ones are treated like disposable cogs in a money machine. I prefer the stores with low turn over, clean interiors, friendly, professional, and experienced staff that has the luxury of staying home and taking a sick day when they are ill, and seeing a doctor if they need one… not people slogging to work, miserable with the flu or strep throat because they can’t afford to take a day off and can’t afford to see a doctor.

          • Just curious, but you claim that “anyone who looks at the numbers” can see your point, yet the company is private, with all financial info private. Are you an insider? Because unless you know what the company’s profit situation is, you’re really just an armchair quarterback. Do you honestly think the management team decided to do this because they’re mean, or heartless and enjoy getting a laugh on the little guy or something? To suggest a lot of number crunching didn’t come into this is silly.

  3. Typical low information blogger. This law is so poor that the economy is flat line with no grown. Business are afraid to spend $ because they are worried what going to come. When you force business to give employees the top of the line health care. Business are going to say no because it cost to much. Wake Up

    • Honestly, I’m not even sure where to begin here, but since you’re starting out your comment with a personal attack on me, I’m guessing that you’re not really here for open-minded discussion.

      • Oh shut up. You were told this would happen if that stupid law was passed. Now quit sounding butthurt and deal with the consequences of electing an affirmative action socialist moron for a president.

        • Wow, what a convincing and mature argument. You must be exceptionally proud. Are your communication skills and professionalism why you (apparently) make the big bucks?

          This may shock you, but some people actually do make their living operating with integrity and mutual respect between the owner, employees, and customers. Not everyone aspires to lord over a serfdom.

  4. Stop shopping there? Then you will make the company need to layoff people. So you end up hurting the people you want to help. A job is better than no job, right? Not saying its perfectbut to want to create unemployment because you want to make a political stance to might yourself feel righteous is not cool.

    • Yes, stop shopping there and take your money elsewhere, like to H&M, where folks who were at Forever 21 might find jobs that include health care even for part time workers. It’s the free market at work!

      • Sorry, Becky. It’s only a matter of time before other retailers follow suit in order to remain profitable to their peerset (and thus can make their share price attractive). So take your money elsewhere if you wish, but eventually, you’ll run out of “elsewheres”. The problem is the law, not the company.

        • So, Forever 21 made $124 million in *profit* in 2011. Spending an additional $2,000 per employee for the ACA penalty not to provide insurance for full time employees would by no means break their bank. The annual premiums for someone using an ACA plan is estimated to be about $5,000 on average (many will be lower based on age and risk factors, some will pay higher due to age, risk factors, and existing conditions). It seems inconceivable that giving existing full-time employees an extra $5,000 a year is actually going to break the bank for most of these companies… particularly in the case of Walmart, where the company banks about 12 BILLION in profit a year (and for some silly reason we are already subsidizing their profits by giving upwards of $400,000 in social safety net services to the employees of every Walmart store in the country).

          The economies of scale involved mean these companies could afford to give their full time employees health care outright if they raised their prices nominally (less than 6% or so I think I read somewhere for the restaurant industry), especially once you factor in the tax credits available.

          • Also, the existing markup over wholesale cost in retail is already about 250 – 300%, tacking on 10% or less is not significantly going to move their price points.

          • Crystal – how nice that you feel entitled to have a say in how Forever 21 chooses to run their business & direct their profits. That is exactly the type of “progressive thinking” that led to the passage of the ACA in the first place & is in large part responsible for 47% of the US population being dependent on the government for assistance of one sort or another. Here’s a news flash – you have a right to your opinion, you have a right to spend your money where you see fit, you even have the right to organize protests against companies that don’t fit your idealized version of an “ethical business model”, but you don’t have the right to poke your nose into how a business decides to spend its profits. If employees don’t like the way they are being treated, they are free to quit and seek employment elsewhere.

  5. “They have more than quadrupled their net worth – from $1 billion annually to $4.5 billion”

    Net worth is not calculated on an annual basis. It is calculated at a moment in time. They may have quadrupled their annual revenue. They may have quadrupled their annual profit. There is no such thing as an annual net worth. Maybe the author doesn’t know anything about running a business.

  6. Hey, so glad to see you writing about this! The zealots spewing nonsense in this comment thread make me more pro-Affordable Care Act than I would have been otherwise! With THOSE pissy arguments against it are all they’ve got, you know what?


    And as a consumer in a capitalist society, I absolutely consider it a patriotic duty to spend my shopping dollars in stores not acting like d***s. I encourage everyone else to do the same, partly b/c it seems to enrage the ants whose hill you’ve kicked by writing about this issue, and anything that does that to such as those can’t be a bad idea.

    Keep up the good work!

    • The problem is you’re ignoring the issue. The affordable care act will be enforced on every employer in the nation…with the exception of congress.

      If the ACA is so good, why are politicians exempting themselves from it? It’s a tax on everybody! Either you have health insurance, or you pay the penalty!

      The main problem with the ACA, is that it doesn’t do anything to fix the problem with healthcare, which is that it costs too much.

      Feel free to take your money elsewhere, but I can guarantee that every employer will be facing the same decision when the law becomes fully implemented. Every store will be a d*** in your eyes because they have to make money.

      • Tyler. Your post is either intentionally obtuse or misinformed. For one thing, Congress is only “exempt” from this law in the same way other people already getting employer group plans are “exempt”. The exchanges are meant for people who can’t already benefit from the rate reductions that come from being part of a larger risk pool, such as a group plan provides. Since Congress is already part of the group plan that covers nearly all full-time Federal employees, they don’t need to shop the exchanges. If they DO happen to find a better deal on a plan with comparable benefits, then they are able to switch if they want and still get an employer contribution toward their premiums. This is not “exempt.”

        Also, the ACA controls health care costs in many ways. Here are just a few off the top of my head:

        1. Insurance providers have to spend 80% of premiums toward actual health care costs now. If their administrative costs (including executive pay) exceeds 20% of revenue, then the difference has to be rebated back to plan members.

        2. By extending Medicare/Medicaid to more low income families, it subjects more patient care to capped pay out amounts. Medicare’s payment formula is “actual cost to provide care +6% for reasonable profit allowance” … this is lower than most insurance providers pay for the same care (roughly 300% mark up on average) and is MUCH lower than what an uninsured person would pay (a seemingly arbitrary amount in “Chargemaster” which may be a markup as high as 700 – 3000% over the actual cost to provide the care). Find yourself a copy of the Time article “Bitter Pill” for more on this. In many cases an uninsured person racks up a giant hospital bill and then is found completely unable to pay… that bill is then written off by the hospital for “non-payment” and can take a tax write off or gets a direct payment reimbursement from the state or county. So in effect, instead of paying for this person’s care at a tidy cost+6%, taxpayers are covering the tremendously inflated costs.

        3. Preventative care, maintenance care of conditions, and coordinated team care are all more cost effective to provide than urgent care, emergency care, and treatment of catastrophic events like a heart attack requiring open heart surgery, a stroke, diabetic shock and seizures, etc.

        3. ACA allows for reduced payment to hospitals with a high rate of preventable readmissions due to infections. This creates an incentive for hospitals to take disinfection and hygiene procedures more seriously. Research indicates most post-op infections are nearly completely preventable, it is bad habits by hospital staff that create the increasing rates of infections.

        4. Creating direct side by side comparisons of plans with the same benefit tiers should put more people in a position to make an educated choice, and competition between providers should work to reduce rates. This is already playing out in a number of states where providers have submitted their plans for review and approval before they make it on to the exchange sites.

    • Yana – what would you have them do? Incur costs that undermine their business? THe problem is the law, which has led to these necessary decisions. Replace the law with something more sensible and targeted to the problem and this issue will disappear. We’re in this together and the ACA undermines captialism and the free-market. You can go to third-world countries and find that if you like; but that’s not America.

  7. Shameful news? If you want to look for those that should be feeling shame, look to Washington, DC and those doddering idiots that passed the Affordable Care Act. The biggest hodgepodge of lies, obfuscations and downright stupidity to come out of DC in history.

    Forever 21 is only the first high-profile company to take this step. Stay tuned, because there will be many, many more, as the financial ramifications of this boondoggle legislation take full effect.

    Every supposed improvement that ObamaCare was supposed to bring has been shown to be a lie, just like the shady, highly questionable methods used to ramrod it through congress. Congress has exempted itself from it. The president and his family have been exempted from it. That tells you something about its efficacy.

    Try to blame business all you want. It doesn’t change the fact that businesses are not in the business of “playing fair” or “being nice” – they are in the profit business & ObamaCare is making it increasingly difficult for everyone to make a profit, so of course those costs are going to be passed along to employees and customers.

    Since the passage of the ACA, my company has downgraded its health insurance coverage every year & this year, for the first time in its history, is now requiring employees to pay a portion of the employee health care premiums. Mine works out to $100 / month. Thanks to ObamaCare, my standard of living just went down by another $1200 / year.

  8. Becky, you don’t get it. There is nothing affordable in the “Affordable Care Act”. My health care is going up 30% next year; and that doesn’t even take into account the “fee” that the Obama administration is levying on evey tax payer next. Businesses are making business decision.

    • Interesting anecdote, Kevin. Let me share my own. My health care is not going up next year, and in fact I received a refund for the portion of my premiums above 15% that were being spent on “administrative fees”.

      • Good for you Joe. Rest assured, you are in the minority. As I posted above, since the passage of ACA, my company has downgraded its health insurance coverage every year & this year, for the first time ever, is requiring employees to pay a portion of the employee health care premiums – a new cost to me of $1200 per year – a not insubstantial sum.

        I’m no fan of Republicans (and I’m certainly no fan of Democrats), but I can only hope that the Republicans take control of the Senate in next year’s elections & their first order of legislative business is to repeal this odious bill.

  9. Since this seems to be a “tip of the iceberg” moment in the history of the Affordable Care Act, let’s all just pull a Pelosi and sign it and wait. The truth will be revealed in time. The more time, however, the uglier it will become. IMHO.

  10. I find myself agreeing with the author on this one. The Forever 21 at my local mall just bought out and expanded into 2 adjacent store fronts… this company has made the deliberate decision to give employees short thrift so the owners can more aggressively expand their retail empire.

    And let’s be honest here, this is not Forever 21’s first foray into behaving badly. In 2001 their garment workers sued them and initiated a boycott of the brand over poor working conditions and unfair wages. Forever 21 has been sued at least 4 times for duplicating the designs of other people. In 2012 there was already a class-action lawsuit to recover employee wages for anti-theft bag checks of employees that happened off the clock.

    Forever 21 will get no sympathy from me, the owners are clearly ethically challenged. So much for that bible quote they put on the bags to prove how Christian they are… seems to me what they really worship is money, and they will screw anyone else to get more of it.

  11. Becky, I guess my primary problem with your article is that you don’t even mention the possibility that the Affordable Care Act has anything to do with this decision. As the comments above make clear, everybody can immediately tell that Forever 21 is just reacting to the coming changes. There’s no way the timing can be that coincidental. Because of that, and because your article ignores it completely, you lose credibility. Then, when people are making the obvious connection in their comments, your refusal to even acknowledge the possible connection makes you look like an ostrich with your head in the sand. And you accuse Brian Lautzenhiser of not wanting an “open-minded discussion”?

  12. One final thing – there are a lot of private companies that put people before profits, as you’ve demanded in your title. Those companies are called “bankrupt”.

    • That’s a nice talking point, but not actually based in reality. Companies like Costco, Publix, Wegmans, Quiktrip, Trader Joes, Best Buy pay well above the average for their industries and don’t intentionally do away with full-time positions to avoid giving employees benefits like health care and paid vacation. Those companies are not bankrupt, they simply have a wage structure that is a little more fair and balanced, instead of being slanted to the extreme toward executive pay and shareholder dividends (which incidentally also figures heavily into executive compensation at a lot of companies). Quarterly profit-mongering looks good on the books for the short term, but I suspect there will come a time when a lot of these companies with dysfunctional pay structures are going to collapse under the weight of their C-Suites. When price your own employees out of the market for your product, your are undercutting your own customer base. Henry Ford knew this when he decided his assembly line workers should make a wage sufficient to allow them to buy his cars.

      Personally, I would prefer that health care was a non-profit enterprise and that we had a legitimate single payer, national system that would decouple health care benefits from employment, but the current deal is the *compromise* that could be pushed through the political environment of the time. The direction the ACA is headed is certainly better for managing long term health care costs across the board. It’s unfortunate that some companies are so greedy and short-sighted, but one can only hope the consequences of their decisions will come back to bite them in the end. If they don’t want to do the right thing, then I guess that is their prerogative… but it is also my prerogative and that of many other Americans not to patronize these places because of it.

      • “ACA is the “compromise” that could be pushed through the political environment of the time”? Seriously? Do you know anything about how ACA was “pushed through”? Have you heard the terms “Louisiana Purchase”, “Cornhusker Kickback”, “Gator Aid”. How about the promise to debate the issues on CSPAN? How about the 2700 pages of legislation being put in front of congress minutes before being required to vote on it & the famous quote by Nancy Pelosi – “You’ll have to pass the bill to find out what’s in it”? This in spite of Obama’s promise to post bills on the White House web site 3 days before voting on them? This whole ill conceived mess was a shady, back-room, Chicago style strong arm, corrupt political payoff deal from beginning to end, with the intent of driving private health insurers out of the market to pave the way for a single payer system, which only leftist progressives like you are in favor of. No thank you!

        • Did you read your own article? It sounds like Best Buy spent too much repurchasing their own stock and offering too many holiday season discounts… nothing in the article seems to indicate their earnings slide over the past few years has been a direct result of the wages they pay. I would also say that a company with 16 billion in assets is hardly “bankrupt.”

          Clearly your measure of success is different than mine. There used to be a time when turning a profit was “successful enough” … now Americans often have an unsustainable vision that every company has to build a 30% or more gain in profits over the previous year, or even the previous quarter… and often the way they go about those gains is to cut costs for labor and production rather than innovate. That doesn’t seem like a tactic that will pay off or can continue to be applied for very much longer, in my opinion.

          • A company with $16 billion in assets could well be bankrupt if their liabilities are more than $16 billion. Whether their above average wages is the main cause of their problems or not is irrelevant. The fact is that Best Buy is currently operating in the red, and those above average wages are certainly contributing to that red ink. The writer claimed that the companies she mentioned were not bankrupt. With Best Buy, that is technically true, but most financial experts believe that bankruptcy is not far off. A company cannot operate in the red on a long term basis and survive.

        • Best Buy recently reported an $81 billion quarterly loss and is closing 50 stores. It seems those store employees have lost their full-time positions, benefits, and paid vacation.

          What the “profit is evil” crowd seems to miss is when companies struggle, so does everyone else. No one ever got a job from a poor person. The same applies to companies.

      • The ACA was no compromise. It was rammed through without a single Republican vote and bribes to get some Democrats to play along.

  13. I started to feel sorry for the author when I saw that she was the only person in the comments who actually agreed with herself, but then some others came to her aid. Bless their hearts, they sure are trying to understand this big complicated world.

    I don’t know what else to say about this that hasn’t already been said by other commenters. I’ll try anyway…

    Concerning businesses:
    Businesses are in business to make money. If a business does not make money it cannot hire anyone. If the government decides that a business has to spend much, much more than the original business model intended, then the business has to go back and rethink it’s business model so that it can continue to make money (as a business should). The government should not have the power to mandate that a business operate at a loss.

    Concerning government:
    The government should not pass laws that have not been read by the people voting on them. The government should not be able to circumvent the Constitution to change how an [unread] bill is implemented. The government should not be able to pick and choose who a bill affects based on political alliances and clout. The government’s rights cannot trump the rights of the individual.

    Concerning entry-level, no-skill, minimum wage jobs:
    An entry-level job does not merit paid time off, health & dental, and other benefits. An entry-level job is not intended to support a family of 4 (or more). They are called entry-level jobs because you are intended to learn, grow, and move on to a bigger, better job. Just because you want more money does not mean that you are entitled to more money: there are plenty of other entry-level workers in the workforce willing to take the job that you refuse to do for the pay being offered.

  14. Bua-ha-ha
    If you liberals so concerned about someone else profits, why don’t you start with your filthy rich fellas like your new messiah aka president that blew off billions for his vacations, or those disgusting Clintons or that fat pig Moore?
    They did do a squat to create jobs or improve business. They don’t need their billions, why don’t you ask THEM to share?

  15. My company has always provided better than average healthcare for us but in a recent employee meeting we were told that thanks to ACA, the company will be forced to pay an increasing tax or fine as long as it continues to provide better care than the obamites running obamacare think we should be getting! If they dumb it down to the government level, our coveage goes to crap!! This is not some liberal government liar pushing their “wonderful” free for all crap! I hope it dies quickly!! the low information voters who think their healthcare is now free are getting mad when the hospitals and doctor’s offices tell them the truth. A local healthcare provider in the Austin, TX area is closing down locations and laying off doctors in order to comply with ACA! Thanks you low information leeches!!

    • I feel your pain. I too had a awesome healthcare plan, great plan for prescription meds, full dental and vision. Now it only covers routine check ups, generic drugs and everything else is out of pocket. I dont know if my hours will get cut but it is a possibility.

      The author of this just has no understanding of how businesses work. Of course had Forever 21 bought into Obamacare they would have to raise prices to cover the cost and try and turn a profit, and the author of this childish low information rant would then be complaining about their prices.

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