Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer loves a BLT and vanilla Fribble from Friendly's. He doesn't love that the chain abruptly closed several restaurants, including 14 in upstate New York, without notifying its employees.
Schumer, D-N.Y., has asked Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta to investigate the closures and determine whether Friendly's violated the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, which requires businesses with more than 100 employees to notify workers ahead of mass layoffs.
Friendly's, which is based in Massachusetts, closed 23 restaurants. Fourteen of the restaurants are in upstate New York. The chain closed four Syracuse-area restaurants.
Friendly's CEO George Michel told the Associated Press that the company will offer employees jobs at other locations or a severance package. The company confirmed in a statement that it would assist employees.
"An especially difficult aspect of the tough but necessary decision to close certain restaurants was the impact it will have on the locations' wonderful employees, who were informed of the news personally and are being supported with opportunities at other Friendly's locations, severance payments or other assistance," the statement reads. "Friendly's has fully complied with all federal and state employee notice requirements."
It's unknown how many employees worked at the affected Friendly's restaurants. Schumer estimated that each restaurant employed at least 30 people and could've had as many as 60 workers.
Several employees didn't learn of the closures until they arrived at work for their shifts.
"No warning. No notice," Schumer said on a conference call with reporters Wednesday. "That is inhumane, it is cruel and it shows that some of these corporations just don't care about their workers."
Schumer, who said he's stopped at Friendly's while traveling across upstate New York, has received questions from restaurant employees affected by the closures. He wants the Department of Labor to get the answers.
What Schumer does know is that Friendly's didn't notify the federal government of the closures and layoffs. If the company violated the WARN Act, he wants the Department of Labor "to throw the book at them."
If there are gaps in the law that allowed Friendly's to cut its workforce without any notification, Schumer pledged to introduce legislation to close such a loophole.
"It isn't just about Friendly's," he said. "It's about fairness to all workers."