State investigating claims that carrier closed, opened under new name to avoid paying drivers

Lakeville employees found this notice tacked to the companys closed and locked gates last month.Lakeville employees found this notice tacked to the companys closed and locked gates last month.

Minnesota Lt. Gov. Tina Smith announced state officials are looking into allegations a newly opened carrier is the reincarnation of a longtime trucking company that closed abruptly and told employees and vendors it could not pay them.

“The Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry has launched an investigation and will make sure that Lakeville Motor Express follows the law, including paying the back wages and benefits they owe to former employees,” Smith said.

Management at the new carrier, Finish Line Express, denies any connection to Lakeville Motor Express.

Employees discovered the unionized Roseville-based LME placed an announcement on its locked gates that stated, without explanation, that it was ending operations Nov. 19. Finish Link Express, another regional LTL carrier, but non-unionized, opened in September in nearby Maple Grove. In recent months, the union says FLE has received LME’s management, trucks and equipment. They also say numerous customers have told them a FLE truck has arrived after they called LME.

The Teamsters union says it represents 90 of Lakeville’s 95 employees, but Minnesota’s Employment and Economic Development agency lists LME has having number at 101 employees.

State officials are assessing if Lakeville is protected under the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act. WARN requires companies with at least 100 employees to notify workers 60 days in advance of covered plant closings and mass layoffs.

CEO Kevin P. Deming has told the union “heavy financial losses” were behind the closing. FLE management has denied having a relationship with the 95-year-old company.

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