MGM Resorts lays off 18,000 previously furloughed employees

People walk in front of the MGM Resorts International Bellagio Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Tuesday, March 17, 2020.

Joe Buglewicz | Bloomberg via Getty Images

MGM Resorts International said Friday it is sending separation letters to 18,000 previously furloughed employees throughout the United States, making their job cuts permanent for now. 

MGM’s Empire City remains closed in New York state, as does its Park MGM in Las Vegas. Casinos in Las Vegas, where MGM has an outsized presence on the Strip, continue to be especially affected by declines in tourism and travel, restrictions on capacity, the lack of fans at sports events and negligible conference and group business. 

At the start of this year, the company employed 70,000 workers in the U.S.

“Nothing pains me more than delivering news like this,” CEO Bill Hornbuckle wrote in the separation letter to employees. “The heart of this company is our employees and the world-class service you provide. Please know that your leadership team is working around the clock to find ways to grow our business and welcome back more of our colleagues.”

The company said it will extend health benefits for furloughed employees until Sept. 30. It’s promising workers who are recalled before the end of the year that they will retain their seniority.  

Federal law requires workers to be given a separation date if they’re furloughed for longer than six months. Aug. 31 marks six months of administrative separation for the furloughed MGM employees.

United warns 36,000 employees they may be furloughed this fall

The world’s third-largest airline says 36,000 workers — including 15,000 flight attendants, 11,000 customer service and gate agents, 5,550 maintenance employees and 2,250 pilots — will receive layoff notices.

The Wednesday announcement paints a grim picture for an air travel recovery only days after United announced it would ramp up its schedule in August. But as the pandemic worsens in some areas of the United States, bookings have once again started to tumble.
United (UAL)has warned for months that it would cut thousands of jobs if travel does not pick up before October. So far, airline workers have been largely insulated from the job losses that have wracked other industries. The federal CARES ACT, enacted in March, offered billions of dollars in bailout funds to the industry and barred companies that accepted the money from cutting jobs, pay rates or involuntarily furloughing workings.

That prohibition lifts on October 1.

Notices were sent to employees Wednesday because federal law requires employers to notify workers 60 days before a mass layoff.

The airline is operating only a quarter of flights compared to last year, a company executive said Wednesday, and those flights are, on average, 55% full. “Involuntary furloughs that we worked so hard to avoid are now the last option left,” the executive said.

Airlines say massive job cuts are inevitable after bailout money dries up

The president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, which represents 50,000 flight attendants at airlines including United, called the furloughs a “gut punch.” But, “they are also the most honest assessment we’ve seen on the state of the industry,” the union president, Sara Nelson, said in a statement.

“This crisis dwarfs all others in aviation history and there’s no end in sight,” Nelson said. She called on Congress to extend the CARES ACT in order to save hundreds of thousands of airline jobs and “extend it and expand it for all working people.”

United previously disclosed in a presentation to employees that it would be sending layoff notices this month.

“Just because you receive a WARN notice does not mean your job is being eliminated,” United told its workforce at the time. “However it is a sign that your job could be affected by an involuntary furlough.”

United insists it’s done everything it can to avert layoffs. Tens of thousands of employees took voluntary unpaid leave as the company began urging workers to do so.
Last month, the company mortgaged its frequent flier program for a bank loan, and at the time the company said between that money and the federal bailout funds it would have $17 billion in cash on hand by the end of September, roughly three times the normal amount of cash it carries.
United and all the other major US carriers also applied for a new round of loans made available under the CARES Act, the Treasury Department announced Tuesday.

The airlines already received $25 billion in aid from the first part of the act. This new round of loans could end up totaling another $25 billion, and the airlines have until September 30 to decide to close on the new loans. Delta, Southwest and United had said Tuesday that they have yet to make a firm decision on whether they will need the additional federal help.

The airline says it’s hemorrhaging $40 million each day.

The United executive also said the company is not confident lawmakers will pass another round of support in this election year, but that company and union officials are engaged in conversations with DC.

“We do not feel like we can count on additional federal government support to survive, and we have to take steps to protect the company and protect the long term interest of the company and the prospects for United employees,” the executive said.

Furloughed from her job, she's now the 'Lasagna Lady' who cooks free meals for first responders and friends

So far, she has made more than 1,275 pans of lasagna for friends, neighbors, first responders, and anyone in need of a good fresh meal — without charging anyone.

For Brenner, this is a labor of love, and she has no plans to stop.

“I knew it was my time in my life to give back to the people who paved life’s path for me to have the 45 years of life that I’ve had,” she told CNN.

Brenner, who moved to Gig Harbor, Washington, about six years ago, was furloughed from work at a menswear store after Covid-19 hit. She quickly realized that she is not very good at sitting around.

She said she decided she wanted to help elderly members of her community and those who could not get out and shop for themselves because of the pandemic.

So, she signed up to work as a shopper for Instacart. She only spent two days working with the grocery delivery app — but during that time she noticed one item her customers kept asking for: frozen lasagna.

One of those customers was a man in his nineties. Brenner said when she delivered the frozen lasagna and other items to him, he confessed to her that he had not had any fresh food in nearly a month and a half.

That moment inspired Brenner to do some grocery shopping of her own, and pick up the ingredients to make her family a fresh lasagna based on her grandmother’s recipe.

“Frozen lasagna is not a treat,” she said. “I am not a fan of frozen lasagna. I’m very Italian.”

After her dish came out of the oven, Brenner jumped on Facebook to do what so many others have done throughout quarantine: Share her home cooked meal on social media. In her post, Brenner offered to make her lasagna and deliver it free of charge to anyone who wanted one.

Michelle Brenner's lasagna ready to eat

When she received enough requests, she went to the store and spent her $1,200 stimulus check on ingredients and started cooking.

She made more than 130 lasagnas, and distributed them to those who requested it for free.

“The whole point of this is to spread that sense of community wherever we can through the comfort of lasagna,” she said. “So, I don’t want anybody to feel disincluded because reality is there are people out there who can’t afford a dollar.”

A one-woman operation

This is a one-woman operation. Brenner spends eight to 14 hours per day doing all the cooking herself. She spent the last 90 days working without a day off.

“Many of us go to work and want to go home right away… and I never had that feeling,” she said of her recent cooking endeavor.

Brenner started the operation in her own home, pushing her kitchen to its limit and setting up a contactless food pantry in her front yard.

Food pantry Michelle Brenner set up in her front yard

Recently, she said she was given free use of a commercial kitchen at the Gig Harbor Sportsman’s club, allowing her to grow her operation.

The process of distributing the lasagnas has allowed Brenner to see the impact of her work first hand.

One family, she said, cried when she arrived on Easter because without the lasagna and other treats, they told her they did not have enough money to celebrate the holiday this year. Another man Brenner fed told her he had recently lost both his father and young son to Covid-19. One woman told Brenner she donated lasagna to the nurses taking care of her mother in an Alzheimer’s ward.

Brenner said she feels her lasagna delivers more than just nutrition: It creates an opportunity for family members to bond.

“That’s a family meal, that’s time to sit together, that’s memories making, that’s conversations,” she said. “It’s something you’ll remember the rest of your life.”

Michelle Brenner

Although she distributes the lasagnas for free, many in her community wanted to chip in. They decided to organize a series of fundraisers online to help Brenner keep the operation going. Over the last nine weeks, Brenner said they raised more than $23,000 for her — which translated into 1,275 pans of lasagna.

While Brenner does not know what will happen when her furlough ends, she said she does not plan to stop making lasagna for others. She called the experience of making lasagna for her community “a dream come true.”

“People say ‘are you tired?'” Brenner said, “and I go, ‘you know, I don’t have time to think about that, I have lasagna to make.'”