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The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

Personal Essay: Companies don’t care about you: My experience as a Foxtrot employee

A+sign+reading+%E2%80%9CThanks+a+lot%21%E2%80%9D+posted+outside+a+Foxtrot+in+Chicago+informs+customers+of+its+closing+on+Wednesday%2C+May+8%2C+2024.+Along+with+employees%2C+customers+were+blindsided+with+the+closing+of+the+upscale+grocer.%0A
Anna Barth
A sign reading “Thanks a lot!” posted outside a Foxtrot in Chicago informs customers of its closing on Wednesday, May 8, 2024. Along with employees, customers were blindsided with the closing of the upscale grocer.

I’ve always found comfort in the constant chaos that comes with the life of a working student. The rigorous routine of going straight from school to work is my “normal,” and the ability to be independent while furthering my education is a blanket of familiarity.

That routine has provided stability during my college experience – the shoulder that life gives me to lean on.

That all changed last month when upscale grocers Foxtrot Market and Dom’s Kitchen & Market closed with no warning. 

The night of April 22 was like any other closing shift at my part-time Foxtrot job. My coworker and I fixed the mess of a stocking job the higher-ups had done during their intermittent minimum-wage worker cosplay.

 It’s no secret that the backbone of any store is lowest on the company hierarchy, and Foxtrot was no different. The company’s corporate side seemed detached from its working-class employees’ reality, minimizing the importance of their labor.

“See you tomorrow!” I yelled to my coworker as we locked up shop for the night,unaware that the words that had just spewed from my lips would turn out to be a lie.

I started the next morning like any other, scrambling to finish my schoolwork before a long day of classes and work. My expectations were soon reduced to shambles – all because of a text message.

“Team. I have the incredibly difficult job of telling everyone that Foxtrot has closed the business,” my assistant manager wrote at 10:02 a.m.  April 23. “As of 12 p.m. today, we are closed down. I am just as frustrated as I’m sure the rest of you will be. This is all the information I have at this point.”

I double-checked the date, convinced it was a sick April Fool’s prank.

“So we’re all just jobless now?” asked my coworker Alice Herold. I wasn’t the only one who instinctively laughed at the supposed joke. 

I tried to rationalize it as a dream, convinced it was all in my head, and fully prepared to walk into my shift later that day. But then came the statement on Foxtrot and Dom’s website:

It is with a heavy heart that we must inform you of a difficult decision we have had to make …” the statement began. “We explored many avenues to continue the business but found no viable option despite good faith and exhaustive efforts.”

 I couldn’t wrap my mind around the fact that I was jobless, let alone the two hour notice I was given. My experience as a working student, the stability that my co-workers and I so greatly depended on, was reduced to an afterthought. 

It felt like the company thought this news would be an inconvenience at most, with no concept of how devastating it would be for employees.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do now,” spilled from our mouths with each sobbing breath we took, most living paycheck to paycheck to survive. With only a moment’s notice, our lives were sent into a spiral of chaos.

“We’ll get through this, we have to get through this,” said Herold, who attempted to comfort me. 

From district managers to baristas, we had no clue about the mismanagement of our company, running it $180 million in debt. The high-end convenience store had always failed its employees, slowly taking away benefits such as shift meals, but no one could fathom that the company would do this to us.

Let’s face it – CEOs don’t see their working-class employees as humans, but instead as miniscule pieces in the game of business. When it comes to bankruptcy, companies lay off thousands of employees, leaving them in the dust while CEOs continue to collect a solid paycheck.

Foxtrot and Dom’s Kitchen & Market are now facing a class-action lawsuit, with hundreds of employees claiming the company violated the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN). The WARN act requires companies to give workers at least 60 days notice before mass layoffs, including cases of bankruptcy, which the parent company Outfox failed to do. 

Ex-employees are seeking 60 days of severance pay and benefits for laid-off workers, as most were completely blindsided by the business closing.  

At 20 years old, my experience as a student worker completely shifted. I had to learn how to navigate the confusing world of unemployment and saw the hardships of my working-class coworkers first-hand.

Foxtrot was more than a part-time job to me, which is why losing it was such a hardship. The bond I formed with my coworkers is more than I could ask for, and they have done more for me than any company or CEO could. Their ability to help others land on their feetwhile struggling to keep their own balance has been admirable.

 The name Foxtrot has changed meaning for me. It’s not a company. It’s not a group of corporate white collars who turned thousands of lives upside down. It’s a group of people, former employees, whose resilience and strength is beyond imaginable.

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