Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer called Bitwise Industries to account for failing to adequately notify government agencies and workers of its abrupt and indefinite furlough of 300 employees who reside in the city and its failure to pay city taxes.
The move comes as Bitwise Industries and its top executives have gone radio silent in the wake of its furlough of more than 900 employees.
What he’s saying: Dyer opened his letter calling on the tech incubator and real estate venture to comply with California’s Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act, which requires employers of more than 50 employees to provide government and public notice of mass layoffs, including indefinite furloughs.
- “The sudden and devastating employment action taken in recent days by Bitwise, reportedly classified as a ‘furlough’ of approximately three-hundred Bitwise employees within the Fresno area has sent ripple effects throughout our community,” Dyer said. “Many long-time supporters of your entrepreneurial presence in our community have reached out to express concern. Unfortunately, it appears that neither Bitwise employees nor the City of Fresno (City) received any advanced notice of this company-wide furlough, which has upended the lives of hundreds of Fresno residents and has caused considerable anxiety based on this lack of communication.”
- “As you are aware, the California Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (Cal WARN Act) requires advance notification to impacted employees, the Employment Development Department, and the chief elected official of the impacted municipality where the employment action occurs, when a ‘furlough’ of this magnitude is imposed,” Dyer’s letter continued. “Unfortunately, the appropriate agencies, including the City, received no such notice and were therefore unable to prepare to offer immediate and essential support to the impacted employees.”
The case of unpaid municipal taxes: Later, Dyer turned to an even more localized issue affecting the company: it’s failure to pay business taxes owed to the city of Fresno.
- “[It] has been brought to my attention that Bitwise related entities have not reported any gross receipts nor paid City business taxes since September of 2021. Please provide an accounting to the City Controller within 30 days of receipt of this letter, failure to do so may result in further action against Bitwise and its Board of Directors,” the Mayor wrote in the letter to co-CEOs Jake Soberal and Irma Olguin Jr.
- The City of Fresno issued a $1 million grant to Bitwise Industries with Federal COVID relief funds to fund a Digital Empowerment Program. City officials Tuesday confirmed they had disbursed $500,000 of the appropriation to Bitwise.
- “We are currently in communication with Bitwise to determine if the program will continue and whether any funding will need to be returned,” Dyer said in a statement on Tuesday.