The auxiliary non-profit organization which controls Cal State Long Beach’s on campus stores, Forty-Niner Shops, Inc., has laid off 578 employees due to the university cancelling in-person classes in response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Of those employees, 506 are students at the university, according to CSULB’s Director of News Media Services, Gregory Woods.
“Although draconian by any standard,” Robert de Wit, the Interim General Manager, CEO and CFO of Forty-Niner Shops, Inc. said in a press release, “this was a measured response to allow affected personnel to obtain unemployment since there was no work for the unforeseeable future that will carry us through to the fall semester.”
While Forty-Niner Shops, Inc. is an auxiliary nonprofit organization of the Cal State University system, it is self funded and operates like a conventional business.
“Business is highly dependent on the 38,000 students and 5,000 faculty and staff members that frequent our campus weekly but who [are] no longer on at our doorstep,” de Wit said. “When the campus transitioned towards an online academic environment, it impacted all areas of our operations, with student traffic virtually disappearing.”
All of the retail shops run by the organization have closed, like the Forty-Niner Shops Bookstore and University Art Store, but a few Forty-Niner Shops employees will remain to work out of back offices in order to support the educational needs of students and university staff.
While the campus bookstore is closed, students can still order supplies through Forty-Niner Shops’ website, which is currently waiving all ground shipping fees to aid students during this transition.
Many employees were made aware of the upcoming layoffs before schedule when an email detailing the contact information of Forty-Niner Shops workers who would be let go March 31 was accidentally sent as a reply to over 400 employees on Monday, March 23.
The following day, de Wit apologized for the incident in an email to employees.
“These are difficult times,” de Wit said in the email, “and we understand that these layoffs will have a deep impact for all of you, and for that we are sorry. However, yesterday we made a tremendous mistake, and we accidentally sent you an email that detailed email addresses for colleagues that will be laid off next week. As the leader of this organization, I want you to know that I am truly sorry. You are all valued members of our team, and the way the announcement went out, was not how we intended it to be.”