WASHINGTON D.C. — U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer announced Friday proposed legislation that will set in place better protections for workers affected by abrupt job cuts, following up on abrupt layoffs experienced by hundreds of employees of Friendly’s restaurants all over upstate New York earlier this year.
Senate Majority Leader Schumer, D-NY, announced the Fair Warning Act of 2019, which intends to close loopholes in previous legislation that allowed 15 Friendly’s location to shutter their doors, leaving more than 300 employees upstate — 20 to 25 who worked at the former state Route 104 location in Oswego, as estimated by local officials.
The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN), approved in 1998, was enacted to give notice and protect workers and employees in the event of a large shortage of labor. Under the WARN Act, employers are meant to give workers a 60-day notice of large-scale layoffs.
The Fair Warning Act of 2019 would lower WARN compliance threshold from 100 employees to 50 employees, and create a requirement than any company with $2 million in payroll to abide by the WARN Act, according to Schumer. Further, the bill would define a mass layoff as a reduction of force by 10 employees at a single site during a 90-day period or any layoff that impacts 250 total employees.
“No matter how you look at it, the way the abrupt closures of Friendly’s restaurants went down across the state was anything but friendly to upstate workers,” Sen. Schumer said in a statement. “The incidents, however, did reveal gaping loopholes in the WARN Act that allow companies to callously lay-off employees without so much as a day’s notice, and they need to be closed immediately.”
In the Port City, Mayor Billy Barlow offered displaced workers seasonal employment with the city’s Department of Public Works (DPW). Barlow told The Palladium-times Friday six former Friendly’s employees were hired by the city under a seasonal role that was set to expire in October.
While at a conference outside the DeWitt Friendly’s location in April, Schumer told The Palladium-Times he would like to see the location host another retail food business like Wendy’s to fill the gap left by restaurant known for its ice cream Fribbles and sandwiches.
Local real estate broker John FitzGibbons, whose firm FitzGibbons Agency represents the former Friendly’s lot’s owners, told The Palladium-Times in April he has been in contact with the independent investor from California to discuss leasing for future occupancy.
“We’re pretty confident we’ll find another strong, national franchise,” FitzGibbons said. “It will probably be attractive to those companies because the nature of these commercial leases is that it goes to these types of companies. It will most likely go somewhere with a developed business concept.”
FitzGibbons said the property is attractive to investors across the country because of its choice location as commercial property, garnering lots of traffic from West Bridge Street pedestrians and motorists.