Teamsters allege carrier abruptly closed, then reopened under new name without notifying employees

Lakeville employees found this notice on the company’s gates Nov. 19.Lakeville employees found this notice on the company’s gates Nov. 19.

Following the sudden closure of a roughly 45-truck Minnesota-based carrier, the Teamsters Union has alleged the company reopened under a new name.

The Teamsters have led protests against the new Finish Line Express. The union claims FLE siphoned resources and customers from Lakeville Motor Express. The Teamsters say the two are sister companies. In recent months, FLE has received LME’s management, trucks and equipment, the Teamsters allege. They also say numerous customers have told them an FLE truck has arrived after they called LME.

Lakeville Motor Express employees found the gates locked when they arrived for work at the 95-year-old company in late November. Attached was a notice that stated, without elaboration, that the Roseville company “has permanently ceased all operations, effective Nov. 19.”

Lt. Gov. Tina Smith condemned LME’s actions at a Dec. 2 rally held by the Teamsters, which represent 90 of its 95 employees.

Earlier this fall, another regional LTL-carrier opened in Maple Grove after incorporating last May.

The carriers have not responded to media inquiries after the (Minneapolis) Star-Tribune published the initial account Nov. 26. FLE Vice President Mike Sanford told the newspaper his company was not connected to LME’s closing. Sanford, who until recently was Lakeville’s VP, denied that the companies share ownership.

That story also references a letter Teamsters received shortly after the shutdown from LME’s Kevin P. Deming, who blamed “heavy financial losses” for the closing. “Lakeville is out of cash and has no reserves to pay any amounts owed to employees or vendors at this time,” the Lakeside owner and CEO wrote.

The union now is attempting to discourage customers from “continuing to utilize sister companies LME and FLE.” Members advocate asking clients if they “support the type of business practices used to hurt 95 families at Lakeville Motor Express?”

They also have picketed FLE since the Lakeville shutdown. On Nov. 25, the National Labor Relations Board closed the company’s case against the Teamsters and accepted FLE’s request to withdraw the charge. A week earlier, the company had filed complaint with the board over union picketing.

Lakeville is not 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.