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Here’s How The Wing Told Employees It’s Doing Massive Layoffs

"Our only path forward is to make significant and painful cuts, layoffs and furloughs to prevent The Wing from closing as a business. We are so very sorry about this."

by Lauren Kaori Gurley
Apr 3 2020, 3:19pm

Image: The Wing

In an all-hands meeting on Friday morning, Wing co-founders Lauren Kassan and Audrey Gelman announced that the women’s co-working-space-meets-social-club will lay off nearly all of its hourly employees and half of its corporate staff, saying that 95 percent of revenue had disappeared overnight.

According to audio of the call, obtained by Motherboard, employees will be informed by 6 PM today about their status via phone call. Motherboard confirmed that layoffs are happening today directly with The Wing.

"A few weeks ago we were talking about which locations we were going to be opening next," Gelman said. "Then, out of nowhere, came a global crisis the likes of which no one has ever seen. Now, we simply don't know when or even if we’ll be able to reopen again."

The founders said that they have decided to forego salaries, have made salary cuts for other executives, and have sought assistance from the federal government, but that those were not enough to save the company.

"Our only path forward is to make significant and painful cuts, layoffs and furloughs to prevent The Wing from closing as a business," Kassan said. "We are so very sorry about this. We now face the unimaginable and deeply painful outcome of having to lay off almost all of our space teams, and half of our headquarters," they added.

The Wing, founded in 2016 by former Hillary Clinton campaign staffer Kassan and Gelman as an utopian, feminist coworking space and social club for women, grew rapidly with more than $100 million in funding from venture capitalists and shareholders including Megan Rapinoe and Mindy Kaling. Last year, Gelman bought Ditmas Park, Brooklyn's most expensive home for $3.2 million. In less than four years, The Wing has opened locations across New York City, as well as Boston, Chicago, London, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Washington DC. As of mid-March, new clubs were set to open in Seattle and Toronto in 2020.

Workers at The Wing have described it as something less than utopian—"I was treated like a human kitty-litter box," one told the New York Times last month.

"As someone who is fully aware of where The Wing gets their funding ie billionaires and millionaires like Sequoia Capital and Google Ventures, I know that these hard cuts are meant to keep Audrey and Lauren's business afloat," an employee at The Wing told Motherboard. "As much as I'm thankful for getting paid while we haven't been able to work, I think it's still fair to be critical of 'progressive' companies who benefit off their good image while treating employees badly. No one in this company, and especially Black and brown folks, have ever been compensated properly for the emotional labor they had to exhaust while working in this very unsafe space."

According to the call, people who are laid off will get two months severance, will remain on employer-sponsored healthcare plans through June, will have paid time off paid out, and will have access to mental health services, career and personal coaching, and Rosetta Stone classes to "develop English language skills."

"We are living in a moment that has brought the world, economy, and so many of us to our knees. It is hard to feel hope. But even as we’re arriving here at the place where so much is ending, please know that what we’ve created together is enduring and it is important," Gelman said. "A community, grounded in friendship, laughter, [and] creation where women felt seen and felt held. You did that. We are profoundly grateful for your contributions and your dedication."

The Wing confirmed the layoffs but did not have a comment for this piece.

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