The calendar invitations landed in inboxes across Target Corp. just after sunrise.

Workers who’d arrived to find the offices stacked with white boxes were to report to conference rooms for simultaneous but separate 8:45 a.m. meetings. Anyone whose job was safe didn’t get an invitation.

“Once it was on the calendar, you kind of knew what you were walking into,” said one woman who was laid off from a job in design. “Not a whole lot of drama, not a whole lot of depth beyond what’s already been put out there.”

The job cuts — 1,700 people — came in one fell swoop, all at the same time, by department. In the words of one employee who kept her job, “at least the Band-Aid is going to rip fast and this won’t be drawn out.”

Many of the laid-off workers declined to speak to the Star Tribune, not wanting to say or do anything that could jeopardize their severance packages. Nearly all of those who spoke did so on the condition of anonymity.

Many Target workers showed up to work earlier than usual Tuesday and quickly began checking with each other to see who had received the summons to meetings. Together they commiserated and speculated about why certain people were on the list.

“It was kind of somber, an hour of waiting,” said the woman who was laid off from design. “It actually was a nice time for support.”

At the meetings, representatives from human resources explained to their dazed audiences that their jobs were being eliminated.

As the morning unfolded downtown, colleagues helped each other carry white boxes through a phalanx of security guards at the entrance to headquarters, down the escalator below the giant bull’s-eye or through the skyway across 10th Street.

The normal stream of Target employees, red and white badges clipped to their waists, rushed to and fro. But others huddled in groups, comforting one another.

One woman’s plastic flowers fell from her white packing box and blew backward toward Target Plaza before she scooped them up and headed down the escalator.

A man waited, staring at his phone, for a woman to come across 10th Street in the skyway. When she arrived carrying a bag on each shoulder, he gave her a long hug.

Leah, a 26-year-old sourcing specialist from Minneapolis who asked that her last name not be used, said she had a premonition that she might lose her job Tuesday.

“I live downtown in the North Loop and I always walk to work,” she said. “Today, I drove because I thought I might be hauling boxes.”

Her premonition proved correct. She was laid off. Her department, which works with global vendors to import products, lost a lot of employees, she said.

“It was a giant hit to entry-level employees in sourcing,” she said.

Two of her co-workers, who were not laid off, helped her carry boxes through the crowded skyway to a parking garage and walked with her back to headquarters to retrieve more of her things.

One woman who worked in Financial Retail Services arrived at the office five minutes before the layoff meeting. Her boss told her to check her computer because she had a meeting coming up.

“I knew that look,” said the employee, who worked in accounting.

She and four others walked to an auditorium where 40 or 50 other employees waited. A second auditorium next door was equally full.

“People were crying, and I was definitely one of them,” she said. “I moved from out of state to work for Target, in a job that I love.”

All the employees who lost their jobs were asked to clean out their desks and say their goodbyes before a second meeting at 11:15 to go over severance, benefits and the other assistance Target is offering. She left before that meeting was over, deciding she’d rather read the packet by herself. She was part of a crowd walking to the parking lot.

“It was a lot of people,” she said. “It definitely wasn’t a day to get any work done.”

 

Staff writer John Ewoldt contributed to this report.