The YMCA of Greater Seattle recently laid off 1,218 part-time employees, including 64 in Kent, due to the impact of COVID-19 that has reduced operations and memberships.
In late March 2020, with Gov. Jay Inslee’s closure of fitness facilities and the “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order, over 2,200 employees were placed on standby, said Alonda Williams, senior vice president and chief experience officer for the YMCA of Greater Seattle, in an April 8 email. Approximately half of those employees remained on standby for an entire year, and some employees were either temporarily recalled and placed back on standby or were placed on standby at a later date.
“We eliminated 1,218 positions for which we don’t have work,” Williams said. “After assessing operations for the foreseeable future, we determined that several of our standby positions would not have work to do until we returned to full operations.
“About 99% of the positions were part-time positions for which we have no work. This may have included instructors for classes for which we are not offering, lessons that we are not providing. Out of respect for the employee and in alignment with best practices, we chose not to extend standby status beyond 12 months.”
Layoffs ranged from as many as 250 people at larger YMCA facilities to 33 at smaller branches. The YMCA has 13 facilities in the Seattle area.
“COVID-19 brought tremendous challenges and opportunities for the YMCA of Greater Seattle,” Williams said. “As a result of the health concerns and reduced operations, we’ve experienced a significant loss of members and program participation across our organization.”
Despite the cutbacks, Williams said the pandemic also gave the YMCA a chance to come together with its donors and partners to serve the community in deeper ways.
“This service included almost 500,000 meals to prevent hunger, shelter for over 450 young people per night, connections with almost 7,000 seniors and emergency child care for almost 700 families,” Williams said. “While we didn’t operate as normal, we pivoted our operations to focus on serving our communities in crisis.”
In Kent, the YMCA worked to reduce hunger, and provided smiles to thousands of kids with its teddy bear distribution partnership and more.
“Overall, our staff has shown up every single day to ensure that we come out of this crisis with a community that isn’t just surviving, but a community that is thriving,” Williams said. “While we are incredibly sad to say goodbye to so many of our incredible employees, we are hopeful that they will always be a part of the Y family, and we would love to welcome them back if possible, once we return to pre-COVID-19 operations.”
The YMCA is helping its former employees.
“Our commitment to our employees and our entire community remains high,” Williams said. “We are providing our separated employees with continued access to outplacement resources, LinkedIn learning access, informational support as well as communications regarding open positions as they become available.
“It is our desire to rehire as many former employees as possible. We are continuing to connect with former employees when we have open positions. Additionally, eligible separated staff receive severance and Y membership for six months after separation. It is our hope that we will be able to rehire many of these employees as our operations allow.”
Williams said that since its employees were on standby and therefore not receiving a salary, the eliminations did not impact their unemployment, salary or benefits.
The YMCA of Greater Seattle still has 1,019 employees, mostly full time, across its 13 branches and its association office in Seattle.