Senator demands answers following abrupt closures of 23 Friendly's restaurants

Posted at 1:25 PM, Apr 10, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-10 14:30:36-04

NEW YORK — Friendly's announced the abrupt closure of 23 corporate-owned restaurants this past weekend , including 14 in New York, now U.S. Senator Charles Schumer is demanding answers.

On Wednesday, Schumer urged the federal Department of Labor to investigate the manner in which Friendly's closed the stores, stating that according to reports "workers were in the dark and arrived at their jobs only to be told to shut the doors—for good."

In a statement to WKBW television station on Monday, a spokesperson for Friendly's stated "please note that employees were informed personally."

“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 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 submitted a letter to U.S. Secretary of Labor, Alexander Acosta, which you can read 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.


U.S. Senator Charles Schumer