Agencies unite to help hundreds of laid-off HelloFresh workers: ‘I’m glad they’re there.’

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East Bay service providers have a message for the 611 workers laid off by HelloFresh in Richmond at the end of October: there are people and services available to help you find work.

“You don’t have to navigate it on your own,” said Carole “DC” Dorham-Kelly, CEO of Rubicon Programs, an anti-poverty nonprofit that’s part of the Contra Costa Workforce Collaborative.

Through the collaboration’s service providers, which includes nonprofits, adult education organizations, schools and community colleges, former HelloFresh employees can access a range of services to help them meet their basic needs, find employment and pursue vocational training, among other opportunities.

The Collaboration began in 2018 to create a network that would increase access to services. One of the main ways to do this is to cut down on paperwork, which can be a hindrance for many. People are mobile, Dorham-Kelly notes, and the network allows them to access services wherever they are at any time.

Three-quarters of HelloFresh employees who were laid off live in Richmond and San Pablo. Eve Howard is one such worker. Howard, who also works full-time as an education paraprofessional, was unaware of the service providers available to help him with his career transition and was hoping to get skills training for a new career in phlebotomy paid for by HelloFresh. Once it became clear that the company would not provide enough funds for her training program and books, she attended the job fair organized by the Richmond Workforce Development Board, known as RichmondWORKS , to HelloFresh before the establishment closed on October 26, and got connected to the San Pablo Economic Development Corp.

Last days for HelloFresh in Richmond, more than 600 workers face layoffs

EDC focuses on the education and training of those who wish to improve their skills in an industry or retrain for a new trade. It also connects people to resources that meet their needs, which may include childcare, food security, or housing. People face different barriers to opportunity, said Leslay Choy, executive director of EDC, and the organization tries to help them break down these barriers.

EDC will fund Howard’s accelerated three-month training program to become a phlebotomist and provide him with an income while he is training.

“I’m glad they’re there, and I’m really excited to be a part of this,” she said. “I hope they will help me in my professional endeavors because I really need their help.”

Ideally, Howard said, she could quit her education job and fully focus on the crash course. For now, however, that’s not an option and she’s looking for a second job to replace her old one at HelloFresh to pay the bills.

“You should be able to spend all of your time on your studies rather than some other job,” Howard said, “but I don’t have anything else to fall back on to earn money. So I have to work my other job, right? I have to go and I have to get that second job fast. Otherwise, I will be doomed.

Choy encourages HelloFresh workers to accept the severance pay the company is paying until mid-December and also to file for unemployment. Because the state’s unemployment system is backed up, accepting severance pay is essential, Choy added.

Additionally, she says laid-off workers should reach out to service providers as soon as possible, to make sure they take advantage of opportunities that may have delays and don’t risk getting into a cycle of debt. , especially during the holidays.

Choy said people often think, “I just need to go to work right now. I’m going to go talk to those employers. And if I can’t find something that works for me, then I can come talk to you guys. “But it’s smart, she said, to talk to service providers both ways, because sometimes workers are entitled to extra income or support.

“All nonprofits are community and people-centric, and we don’t want to spin the wheels by doing things that aren’t helpful,”

Carole “DC” Dorham-Kelly

Typically, collaboration would be involved in the rapid response that kicks in when a big layoff occurs. But not all of the partner organizations were aware of the layoff until it happened, said Dorham-Kelly, whose own organization was among those caught off guard. HelloFresh filed the required workforce adjustment and retraining notification with the state on October 10, indicating that the facility would be permanently closed, 611 workers would be laid off, and the layoffs would be effective on December 11.

That same day, the information reached RichmondWORKS, the city agency that led the response. WARN notices must be issued at least 60 days prior to a mass layoff or closure. While the time between HelloFresh’s notice and the closure of the establishment was only 16 days, the company was technically compliant because there are 60 days between the notice taking effect on October 11 and the dismissal of the employees. workers ending on December 11.

Dorham-Kelly and Choy are unsure why partner organizations were only involved in rapid response efforts shortly before HelloFresh closed its Richmond facility. Many employees had stopped coming to work at that time because they had finished their tasks. It was therefore difficult for service providers to meet with the laid-off workers. Once people are unemployed and out of their workplaces, it’s difficult to reach them and connect them to resources, Dorham-Kelly and Choy said.

“Our teams are good together. So I’m not sure why this was handled differently other than maybe there just haven’t been as many WARN notices, maybe things changed during COVID from another way,” Choy said. “But I think we need to completely rethink the protocol, so that everyone is working together.”

When asked why RichmondWORKS hadn’t reached out to the collaborative organizations sooner, Richmond Mayor Tom Butt said only that the agency had done a lot in the time it had to help workers while the installation was still open.

“It’s not uncommon for labor boards not to be given adequate notice of layoffs or plant closures,” he said.

RichmondWORKS worked with partners to host five rapid response sessions for workers in the days leading up to the facility’s closure, Butt said. He also coordinated a mini job fair at HelloFresh on the final day of the facility and a larger job fair, which included 33 companies and seven community organizations, at Contra Costa College this week.

Butt referred to an Oct. 28 email from Tamara Walker, assistant director of community employment and training services at RichmondWORKS, who said the agency was providing rapid response services to more than 300 employees. from HelloFresh – about half of those losing their jobs. The email said RichmondWORKS is offering $7,500 in salary reimbursement to companies that hire former HelloFresh employees.

Dorham-Kelly said service providers want to hear from workers about what they need and what response they would like to see.

“All nonprofits are community and people-centric, and we don’t want to spin the wheels by doing things that aren’t helpful,” she said.

For many, the stigma of seeking help prevents them from reaching out, said Dorham-Kelly, who stressed that service providers are simply making sure people get what they are entitled to.

For some, particularly in immigrant populations, Choy said there are suspicions that the services offered are not legitimate, often because they seem too good to be true.

“They may not trust certain things and it’s just like, ‘Well, that can’t be right, don’t accept that because there’s always a carrot and a stick,'” she said. . “And it’s like, no. Really, everything is carrot, and you might even be heading for a cupcake.

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