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Trucking firm leaves workers without jobs, paychecks

Adapted from the Minneapolis Labor Review
December 16, 2016

By Steve Share, Minneapolis Labor Review editor

MAPLE GROVE— Workers at trucking company Lakeville Motor Express showed up November 21 ready to work — only to find a sign on the gate saying that the Roseville company “has permanently ceased all operations.”

That wasn’t the whole story, however, according to Teamsters Local 120, which represented the 100 workers at LME.

The union discovered that LME executive Travis Hoeschen had started a competing company, Finish Line Express, and over several months had moved trucks and customers to the new non-union operation.

For the LME workers who came to work November 21, the sudden closing was a shock.

“I’ve never heard of any company treating their employees like this,” said Shane Thompson, who lives in Braham. “I spent 14 years there and now I’m left with no paycheck and no insurance for my family.”

He added, “our last two paychecks, they never paid us.”

Thompson, along with his wife Linda and two sons, ages two and three, joined other former LME workers and their families along with other labor supporters for a December 1 rally in Maple Grove outside the gates of LME’s new incarnation, Finish Line Express.

A bank of semi-trailers, all emblazoned with the LME logo, sat clearly visible in the parking lot.

Former LME workers rallying December 1 included 19-year employee Tim Bumgardner, Andover (center), joined by his daughter Abra (right) and son Brandon. “We’re fighting,” Bumgardner said.

The demise of LME and launch of FLE “was very surgically done,” the crowd learned from Tom Erickson, president of Teamsters Local 120. The two companies, he said, have “the exact same management teams.”

“This is not a union issue,” Erickson emphasized. “This is a Minnesota issue.”
What LME did to the workers — abandoning them and their families three days before Thanksgiving —  “it doesn’t get any more heartless than that,” Erickson said. “It’s not Minnesotan. It’s not what we stand for.”

Erickson said management’s move to close LME and shift the business to FLE was meant to circumvent wages and benefits under LME’s contract with Teamsters Local 120, which was in effect until June 2018.

“We’re not going away,” Erickson said. “We are manning the picket lines here.” And, he added, “we’re going out to their customers,” including prominent companies like John Deere, Toro, Land O’Lakes, U-Line and 3M.

Several workers and family members addressed the December 1 crowd, including Shane Thompson and his wife Lisa, with the two young boys. She asked: “How are we going to pay for our house? How are we going to pay for our cars?”

“Do this to a nice family?” Erickson asked in disgust.

Lisa Thompson, LME employee Shane Thompson and their two sons. Lisa asked, “how are we going to pay for our house?

“They took the healthcare away from my wife and that makes me very angry,” said Steve Satterlee, Cottage Grove, a 15-year LME employee. “They don’t give a shit about anything but themselves. How they can sit and eat their food without choking, I don’t understand it.”

“At the very least, give us the money we earned.” said Nick Barbato, Scandia, a 33-year LME employee. He added, “they forced us to work overtime knowing… they were going to do this, which made the whole thing stink more than it does.”

Minnesota Lieutenant Governor Tina Smith spoke to the rally. Referring to the LME-branded semi-trailers in the FLE lot, she observed,  “the same trailers that are here were there.”

A bank of semi-trailers, all emblazoned with the LME logo, sat clearly visible in the Finish Line Express parking lot.

As for not paying the workers their final paychecks, “that’s the same as stealing,” she said. “I want everyone in Minnesota to know this is happening.”

Smith pledged to direct the state’s Department of Labor and Industry to investigate and take action. “If companies don’t pay their workers, we can order them to do that.”

“I stand with you,” Smith told the workers. “I will do everyting I can to help you.”

“This is a fight against wage theft, not just for union members, but for all workers,” said Chelsie Glaubitz Gabiou, president of the Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation.

“We  are not giving up on this fight. This is just the beginning,” said Virgil Christoffersen, Teamsters Local 120 business agent, who represents the former LME employees.

“It is deplorable behavior on the part of an employer,” said State Representative Erin Murphy. “We are in a helluva fight in Minnesota and across the country… Without organized labor, without contracts that work, we are going to lose the middle class.”

As the Labor Review went to press December 9, Teamsters Local 120 continued to maintain picket lines weekdays from 7:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at  Finish Line Express, 10001 89th Ave. N., Maple Grove.

A fund has been set up to help Lakeville Motor Express families. Send a check payable to “Working Partnerships” to the address below. MAKE SURE you write “Lakeville Motor Express Fund” in the memo line.

Working Partnerships
312 Central Ave, Suite 524
Minneapolis, MN 55414

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