Democratic Maryland Representative David Trone has quietly laid off workers during the coronavirus pandemic while his multi-billion-dollar wine company has thrived, the Daily Beast reported.
Rep. Trone’s successful wine business has boomed during the coronavirus pandemic. According to documents obtained by the Daily Beast, the representative’s company Total Wine & More reported that sales grew substantially during the pandemic. On March 16 the company saw a 74 percent growth in sales since the same time last year, and saw a 42 percent growth from last year on the week of April 20. Currently, sales are up 19.2 percent from last year.
While the business thrived, however, Rep. Trone was reportedly laying off employees with little notice or benefits. (RELATED: Sen. Rubio Urges Trump Administration To Protect Worker Interests With Paycheck Protection Program)
An anonymous employee who works full-time in the Total Wine & More’s Bethesda headquarters agreed to speak with the Daily Beast. According to the employee, they were notified of their layoff on May 15 and told on a video call that their employment would end June 1. Other than being told that their health insurance and vacation days were going to continue until the end of June, they were not offered any other severance packages.
????SCOOP: A thriving national liquor business co-owned by @RepDavidTrone has privately laid off employees without providing critical outplacement services, while the congressman continues to publicly promote pro-worker protections during COVID-19. https://t.co/JE6ohWLcqw
— Hanna Trudo (@HCTrudo) May 18, 2020
“My thinking was when you are making that type of money, you have some corporate moral obligation to not kick people to the side,” the employee told the Daily Beast.
Later that day, a HR representative who was on the video call sent an FAQ PDF document via email, which was obtained by the Daily Beast.
“What if I do not want to apply for a new role?” one question read. “No further action is needed and your last day with Total Wine will be June 1,” the answer said.
Another question asked, “if I am laid off on June 1, what happens next?” The response said that “you will receive your remaining PTO balance as a lump sum in your last paycheck. You will also be eligible to continue your current benefits through June 30. Additionally, you will be able to file for unemployment.”
The company hosted a virtual town hall later that day to discuss the company’s layoffs and restructuring. Although the senior leaders said they would try to help, the employee said, the description of how exactly they would do so was vague, according to the Daily Beast’s report.
The employee reportedly told the Daily Beast that “the nature in which it happened came off as extremely callous.”
“The organization kept people completely blind,” they added. The employee said that no official correspondence was given about the layoffs or any outplacement services was given. “They did do a hell of a job at leaving a limited paper trail,” they told the Daily Beast.
Rep. Trone has repeatedly supported workers’ rights in his political career. In November 2019, Trone, along with Democratic Ohio representative Tim Ryan, introduced the Fair Warning Act, which would amend the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act “to support workers who are subject to an employment loss.”
Trone has voiced support for workers during the coronavirus pandemic. “A top priority throughout the #COVID19 pandemic is ensuring that workers and families are able to navigate this crisis,” the congressman said in an April 15 tweet. “Today, I connected with labor leaders from across the state to hear about how the government can provide support for the labor community during this time.”
A top priority throughout the #COVID19 pandemic is ensuring that workers and families are able to navigate this crisis. Today, I connected with labor leaders from across the state to hear about how the government can provide support for the labor community during this time.
— Rep. David Trone (@RepDavidTrone) April 15, 2020
Trone also supported the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, a $2 trillion economic relief package that would provide benefits to American families and workers, which was passed with bipartisan support and signed into law on March 27.
Most recently, the congressman supported the Health and Economic 6 Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act providing $3 trillion of additional relief funding, which passed in the House on May 15.
“I’m in Washington today to vote on the #HeroesAct to help American workers, families, and our economy weather this unprecedented crisis,” he said in a tweet.
— Rep. David Trone (@RepDavidTrone) May 15, 2020
When asked about the layoffs, a representative for Total Wine & More said that the company was realigning to better meet their needs and that Trone was not involved in the operating decisions, according to the Daily Beast report.
“We have no comment—this office doesn’t have anything to do with any business or company,” a spokesperson from Trone’s congressional office told the Daily Beast.
“In response to the dramatic changes to our business over the last few months, the management team has started the process of realigning a small number of the company’s resources in the corporate office to meet the company’s changing needs and business priorities,” vice president of public affairs & community relations for Total Wine & More Edward Cooper said in a statement, the Daily Beast reported. “Our goal is to shift as many of our corporate employees into these new critical areas as possible. The process just started in the last few weeks and is still underway.”