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Schumer wants to expand WARN Act in wake of Friendly's closings

U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer plans to file legislation to tighten federal labor laws to require companies cutting more than 100 jobs across several locations to give workers at least two months' notice.

Spurred by this month's job cuts at 15 upstate Friendly's restaurants that abruptly closed, Schumer said Monday he is seeking changes in the federal law that requires companies to give workers 60 days' advance notice if they are eliminating at least 100 jobs. But that requirement only applies at individual sites where more than 50 people are employed.

Friendly's workers were not given any advance notice of the shutdown because none of the 15 restaurants crossed the 50-job threshold at any single location to trigger the advance warning provisions in the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act.

"Because they happened to work at different locations, the company was not required to give any notice, and that's just wrong," said Schumer, D-N.Y.

Friendly's has said it fully complied with all federal and state employee notice requirements when it closed 14 restaurants, including four in Western New York, during the weekend of April 6. Another restaurant in suburban Rochester closed a week later. Schumer said more than 375 full-time and part-time workers lost their jobs.

"An especially difficult aspect of the tough, but necessary, decision to close certain restaurants was the impact on the locations’ wonderful employees, who were informed of the news personally and supported with opportunities at other Friendly’s locations, significant severance payments not required by law, and other assistance," said Hannah Arnold, a Friendly's spokeswoman.

Schumer said his legislation would attempt to close "the single employment site loophole" and increase the circumstances that trigger the two-month advance notice requirement.

The local restaurants that closed were located at 6651 Transit Road, Lancaster, just north of the Thruway; 4350 Maple Road, Amherst, near the University at Buffalo’s North Campus; 3540 McKinley Parkway, Hamburg, near the McKinley Mall; and 10 S. Main St., Jamestown.

Friendly's CEO George Michel said at the time that the restaurant closings, which also included nine other locations in the Northeast, were part of the company's response to “shifting demographics and consumer preferences, increased competition and rising costs.”

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