Two years after Thanksgiving shock, Teamsters aren’t letting FLE off the hook

Teamsters who lost their jobs when Lakeville Motor Express abruptly closed shop two years ago raise their hand at a picket-line rally.

Nearly two years after Lakeville Motor Express abruptly closed shop, 90 members of Teamsters Local 120 are still fighting for the wages, vacation pay and other benefits the Roseville-based trucking company owes them.

To show they aren’t giving up, former LME employees rallied Tuesday with fellow union members and supportive politicians on a picket line outside the Finish Line Express terminal in New Brighton.

“We’re out here every single day, Monday through Friday,” Local 120 President Tom Erickson said from the picket line. “We’re not going away.”

Finish Line, Local 120 officers claim, absorbed LME’s business after the company shuttered without warning Nov. 20, 2016 – three days before Thanksgiving – and refused to pay union members for the previous two weeks of work.

Finish Line and LME have ties that predate LME’s closing, including executives who worked for both companies. Local 120 alleges those executives gradually shifted work from LME to Finish Line until LME’s payroll dipped below 100 – the legal threshold at which companies must provide 60 days’ notice of plant closings under the WARN Act.

The bosses’ objective, Local 120 alleges, was to shed the Teamsters contract and escape all ties with the severely underfunded Central States Pension Fund, a liability of $90 million, according to the company’s bankruptcy filings.

“It was a company that was profitable, and they did this for one reason: to make more money,” Erickson said. “FLE is LME. Everybody here knows that.”

Now, LME and Finish Line face legal challenges on a number of fronts: from the pension fund, from the National Labor Relations Board and from the state Department of Labor and Industry, which last year levied an $87,000 civil penalty against the firms.

A hearing on NLRB charges of unfair labor practices was postponed Monday after the employer expressed interest in negotiating a settlement. The two sides have since entered mediation, but it’s not the first time management has expressed interest in settling.

“They’ve asked what we want,” Erickson said. “What we want is these jobs restored. These should be good Teamster jobs.”

All 90 workers locked out of Lakeville Motor Express two years ago have since found other work or retired. But as the rally yesterday made clear, none has forgotten the debt LME still owes.

Local 120 invites supporters to join picketing any weekday between 7 a.m. and 4 p.m., at 50 14th St. NW, New Brighton.

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