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Poloncarz criticizes New Era Cap for layoffs, 'their name should no longer be on the stadium'

Several New York politicians share in the disappointment
Posted at 5:04 PM, Jul 08, 2020

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz shared some strong words in regard to the reported layoffs at New Era Cap Wednesday.

Poloncarz said he's very disappointed with the company and it's his understanding that 117 workers at the company's headquarters in downtown Buffalo are being laid off.

The move comes after the company took between a $5 to $10 million dollar loan from the Paycheck Protection Program. Recently released data by the U.S. Small Business Administration detailed the loan was approved on April 15th and helped retain 488 jobs.

“The minute the program ends for them to cut their employees out is a bad idea," New York Senator Chuck Schumer said in Buffalo Wednesday. He said his staff spoke with the company asking them to implement the “work share program" instead of layoffs.

“You keep your employees furloughed. They continue to get benefits, health benefits, keep their pensions. And they can get unemployment insurance even though they’re furloughed through the Pandemic Unemployment Insurance program and get their salaries paid," Schumer said.

“I hope as they review the guidelines of this other federal program that New Era will be able to move in a different direction and not layoff employees," Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said.

Poloncarz added: "I'll say this, after seeing everything that we've dealt with in New Era, whenever we have negotiations on the stadium I don't believe we're going to give stadium naming rights to any Bills organization that can sell them and then have an organization treat our community as poorly as New Era did." He continued, "Their name should no longer be on the stadium if they're going to continue to layoff our employees and say 'sorry'."

7 Eyewitness News reached out to New Era Cap inquiring on the specific details of the layoffs, a company spokesperson issued the following statement:

"Today, New Era Cap announced that we will be bringing the majority of our employees across North America back from furlough, with an estimated return between July and August. We are excited to be able to make this announcement after several months of uncertainty resulting from the significant economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic on our industry. However, all of our license partners, along with the retail sector as a whole, continue to struggle to find ways to recover. While we’re seeing some bright spots, it is now evident that it will take time for business to recover to prior levels. All of this means that we have had to resize our workforce to better align our operations with the new market reality."

The county executive then went on to say that the company wouldn't exist without the hard work of the people of this community.

"Yeah business is tough, but the day after your PPP timeline expires then lay all these people off, that's bad faith and I will not use that name associated with the football stadium anytime soon," Poloncarz continued. "It's going to be Ralph Wilson Stadium as long as I'm county executive."

In late March New Era Cap announced it would furlough employees due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The furlough was effective March 30 and impacted around 70 percent of its U.S. workforce of 600 employees, which includes Buffalo, New York City, Miami, and Irvine.

New Era closed the company's plant in Derby in 2019.

New York State Assemblyman Sean Ryan released this statement Wednesday:

“In 2019, after taking years of economic stimulus money from Erie County taxpayers, New Era Cap closed their profitable manufacturing plant in Derby, sending that work overseas and leaving 219 Western New York employees without a job.

Now in 2020, just after taking between $5 and $10 million of Federal Paycheck Protection Program funds designed to help small businesses retain employees, New Era plans on laying off another 117 Western New Yorkers, this time from their Buffalo Headquarters.

New Era had reported revenues of approximately $750 million in late 2018. CEO Chris Koch can absolutely afford to keep these workers employed while our economy recovers, but he is once again choosing to unnecessarily send Western New Yorkers to the unemployment line, all while continuing to pay over $5 million dollars a year for naming rights at what was formerly Ralph Wilson Stadium.

New Era Cap is a hometown company and should be leading the way as our community continues to recover. Instead, they are once again letting this community down in a time of need.”