Employees at the Salvation Army thrift store in Windsor are feeling upset after learning that the organization will soon be closing the Walker Road location due to "financial viability."
"We were never given an opportunity to sit down with The Salvation Army and go over these financial issues ... to keep that operation going," said Ted Mansell of Services Employees International Union Local 2. The union represents the employees of the Salvation Army.
The location, which has been selling items like donated clothing, food and furniture for the past 17 years, will permanently close on the first day of September.
Union calls closure 'abrupt and offensive'
Employees were first made aware of the closure Thursday — just more than two weeks before the store's permanent closure. According to Mansell, that's just too short of notice to inform workers they'll be out of job.
"They're absolutely devastated and quite offended that the [organization] has made this rather abrupt decision and just callously told people, 'In two weeks, you're permanently unemployed. Nice knowing you,'" Mansell said, adding some employees have been working at the Windsor location since it first opened.
The decision to close the store is a "long time coming" and wasn't made "overnight," according to Salvation Army spokesperson Pam Goodyear. But she added a two-week notice isn't "unusual in cases when you have to close an operation."
"It wasn't an easy decision for the Salvation Army. Obviously, we're concerned when it impacts lives of employees and also the community at-large," Goodyear said.
Changing location vs. closing the store
The union also cites the store's location as one of the reasons why they haven't been able to find success. Mansell said the store should've been relocated somewhere "more accessible" to those who need it.
"We have been suggesting for a very long time that they should look at selling the [Walker Road] property and using those proceeds to better situate themself somewhere in the community where people can access them much more easily."
Mansell feels the Salvation Store took the easy way out — closing the store rather than moving it to a different location.
"We think that that's a terrible way, as a Christian organization, to conduct business and treat their employees," he said, adding the employees weren't given the opportunity to come up with a plan to save the store.
But the Salvation Army will not lose its entire presence in Windsor. The organization runs a church, learning centre and downtown community services centre which will all continue to operate in the city.
Last ditch effort to save the store
The union was originally scheduled to meet with the Salvation Army next week for normal bargaining — plans which have changed due to the devastating news of the store's closure.
Mansell said the meeting's focus will shift to developing a viable business plan to keep the thrift store in Windsor.
"In the meantime, what we're asking the public to do [during the Christmas kettle season] is to give their donations to other charities that are deserving in the Windsor-Essex area. We're hoping that will bring the Salvation Army to their senses."
Before next week's meeting, the union will meet with their own membership for an emergency meeting Tuesday.
According to the Salvation Army, the Walker Road location will hold a sale on all of the store's inventory before its closure on September 1. Any remaining stock will be relocated to other "national recycling operations" in areas just outside of Windsor — like Essex, London and Chatham.