04.10.19

SCHUMER: ABRUPT CLOSURE OF ICONIC ‘FRIENDLY’S’ RESTAURANTS ACROSS UPSTATE NY DEMANDS ANSWERS; CORPORATION SHOULD HAVE GIVEN WORKERS FAR BETTER NOTICE THEY WERE BEING LET GO; SENATOR URGES FEDS TO INVESTIGATE MANNER BY WHICH SERVICE WORKERS WERE NOTIFIED OF LAYOFFS & IF BETTER PROTECTIONS ARE NEEDED

14 Friendly’s Restaurants Across Upstate NY Abruptly Closed This Weekend; Leaving Many Workers In The Dark; Went To Work & Told To Close The Restaurants—For Good

Schumer Says Process That Played Out Across Upstate NY Is Unfair To Employees; Urges DOL To Investigate Restaurant Corp To See If Any WARN Rules Were Skirted Or If Service Workers Need Better Protections

Schumer: The Way This Went Down Is Anything But ‘Friendly’ To Upstate NY Workers 

On the heels of abrupt closures of 14 Friendly’s restaurants across Upstate New York, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today urged the federal Department of Labor (DOL) to investigate the manner by which New York workers were let go this past weekend by the Friendly’s Corporation. According to reports, workers were in the dark and arrived at their jobs only to be told to shut the doors—for good. Schumer said this swath of abrupt corporate-ordered closures demands answers from Friendly’s—and from the feds. Schumer also said the circumstance of these abrupt layoffs raises critical questions around the rights of New York service workers who are employed by larger corporations.

“No matter how you look at it, the way these abrupt closures and sudden firings went down was anything but friendly to Upstate workers,” said U.S. Senator Charles Schumer. “As a major corporation, Friendly’s must adhere to federal laws that provide their employees with necessary updates when their employment is in imminent danger, but it doesn’t look like that happened here. Or maybe there was a way to skirt those rules? Bottom line, people have a lot of questions, including me, and the feds should provide some answers. This kind of unannounced, mass layoff shouldn’t happen to any worker without fair notice, so it is up to the feds to investigate the manner by which Upstate workers were notified of layoffs and determine if better employee protections are needed within the service industry. If the latter is true, I will be the first to pursue a legislative fix in Congress.”

Schumer said the Friendly’s restaurant closures across Upstate New York were a shock to both employees and customers, and cited numerous media reports across Upstate documenting the situation. Schumer urged the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) to investigate if any WARN laws were skirted and to determine whether or not service workers in corporate service employment need better protections. Schumer said that if an investigation determines service worker protections in corporate structures require reforms, he will be the first to raise the issue in Congress. Schumer said it does not appear Friendly’s Corporation filed any notices with the federal government, but that given the aggregate number of workers impacted, they likely should have notified the feds.

“When a worker takes a job, they are often mandated to provide a two-week notice upon quitting. Friendly’s should have to live by that same kind of standard, anything less is both unfair and irresponsible,” Schumer added.  

According to widespread news reports, over the weekend of April 6-7 the Friendly’s Corporation abruptly and permanently shuttered 23 Friendly’s restaurants across the Northeastern United States. Upstate New York was the hardest hit area with 14 closures. Schumer explained that in many cases, employees at the various Upstate New York locations were completely unaware of the closures and still showed up for work the next day, only to be blindsided by the fact that they were out of a job. Schumer said that the hardworking employees at the 14 Upstate Friendly’s locations deserved advance notice of their termination, at the bare minimum, and called the company’s unexpected actions extremely alarming.

Locations of the 14 closed Upstate Friendly’s restaurants by region appear below:

Central New York:

  • Clay (Great Northern Mall, 4081 Route 31)
  • Dewitt (3275 Erie Boulevard E.)
  • Oswego (192-196 W. Bridge Street)
  • Syracuse (3701 James Street)

Rochester-Finger Lakes Region:

  • Gates (2 Spencerport Road)
  • Greece (3935 Dewey Avenue)
  • Greece (3081 West Ridge Road)

Western New York:

  • Amherst (4350 Maple Road)
  • Blasdell (3540 McKinley Parkway)
  • Jamestown (10 S. Main Street)
  • Williamsville (6651 Transit Road)

Southern Tier:

  • Binghamton (1148 Front Street)
  • Endicott (301 E. Main Street)
  • Oneonta (377 Main Street)

In 1988 Congress passed the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act to protect the rights of workers and employees in the United States. The WARN Act mandated that employers give their employees 60 days advance notice of large-scale layoffs under certain circumstances. First, only organizations with 100 employees or more are required to comply with the WARN Act. Second, WARN Act notification is only necessary when 50 or more employees at an individual workplace are set to be terminated, or if 50 or more employees are impacted by a factory closing.

Schumer said that while each of the Friendly’s locations didn’t necessarily cross the 50 employee threshold, when grouped together, the locations far exceeded it. Schumer explained this mass restaurant closing Upstate begs questions as to whether the Friendly’s Corporation abided by their legally-binding WARN Act obligations, and if they did not, how exactly the company was capable of skirting their vital obligations. Therefore, Schumer urged the Department of Labor to thoroughly investigate the matter and quickly inform Congress of any findings related to whether the Friendly’s Corporation acted illegally in abruptly shutting down the Upstate restaurants. If not, Schumer vowed to investigate and work to close any potential loopholes in WARN Act that enable corporations, like Friendly’s, to abruptly close operations. The senator argued that no hardworking resident of Upstate New York should suffer the same fate as the Friendly’s workers who showed up to their job in the morning, only to learn that their workplace had been closed overnight.

Schumer’s letter to U.S. Secretary of Labor, Alexander Acosta appears below

Dear Secretary Acosta:

I write today on the heels of abrupt and mass layoffs at Friendly’s restaurants across Upstate, New York. Just days ago, workers across fourteen New York locations arrived at their jobs only to be told to close the restaurants—for good. This type of corporate decision likely should have triggered a notification with your agency, but all signs point to your agency being as in the dark as Friendly’s employees themselves.  

Across Upstate, Friendly’s, headquartered in Massachusetts, has been an iconic staple; a place to bring the family to enjoy a meal. Each restaurant employed managers, wait staff, cooks and cleaning crews. While it is no secret the corporation has had its share of struggles, the sudden closures and layoffs this past weekend seem to be a potential violation of federal workplace law that should be investigated. A simple chronicling of the news will detail locations across the State felled by the same narrative: abrupt closure and shocked employees.

For many of America’s service workers employed by larger corporations, this kind of news is troubling. The circumstance raises questions about federal protections now on the books—laws designed to ensure corporations ‘WARN’ workers of imminent layoffs, so those workers can make appropriate plans in their own lives and for their own families. A cursory look into Friendly’s reveals that the corporation did not notify your agency of this past weekend’s layoffs, and that perhaps they skirted current laws in a way that might be legal, but is certainly not friendly.

Therefore, I urge your agency to query the Friendly’s Corporation and investigate the manner by which service workers were notified of layoffs. A request like this is a bare minimum appeal for workers who were shocked to arrive at their jobs and abruptly told to close up shop. Workers are expected to provide employers with an industry standard ‘two-week notice’ upon quitting. These same workers should trust that their employers adhere to the same kind of agreement. It’s only fair.

Please feel free to contact me should you have any questions regarding my request for answers as it relates to Friendly’s layoffs. And thank you for your willingness to serve at an agency that stands as a symbol of worker rights and protections.

Sincerely,

U.S. Senator Charles Schumer

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