July 16, 2019 11:24 PM
(ABC 6 News) -- Hundreds of employees are being told they will have to wait months for their paychecks, maybe even longer, after Minnesota-based trucking company LME, Inc. abruptly closed for good, leaving them without a job and, in some cases, out thousands of dollars.
When Steve Ellison looks out onto the property of his former employer; LME in Stewartville, he says he doesn't feel anger, because he's still in shock.
“They [LME, Inc.] never missed any payment of any kind; I had no hint that they were in trouble in any way, shape or form,” said Ellison. “They actually still had ads that they were hiring drivers. Right before May 10th, they actually gave us a raise.”
However after a typical work day on Thursday, Ellison says he turned in his paperwork and was told LME “was no longer a company” and he should “clean out his truck and go home.”
Many others faced similar situations. According to trucking company’s website, LME employed about 600 people in several states.
Ellison says they were supposed to get paid on Friday, but the money never came. He says he was supposed to get about $2,400 after taxes.
“Puts me in a predicament,” said Ellison. “I have a house payment, a car payment and other bills and expenses.”
The move is also putting businesses in a bind.
The majority of the parts and products sold at SEMA Equipment Inc. in Grand Meadow are John Deere; that brand was a major account for LME.
On Friday, the daily deliveries stopped without warning.
“Orders that we had coming in to re-stock our facilities had not come,” said Jeremy Hart, the corporate parts manager for SEMA. “Those are kind of stuck in limbo. Essentially they are stuck on an LME trailer somewhere so we are going to have difficulty getting those parts.”
Hart says SEMA had to re-order parts through another company at a huge extra cost. He says there's no way to tell how much money they will lose just yet.
“It's horrible to not only the customers like us, but also the employees,” said Hart. “We saw them every day; they were our friends. We didn't see it any more than they did, it was a giant stab in the back.”
Our requests for an interview with an LME representative went unanswered.
A statement was posted their website last week offering no real explanation other than to say, "due to unforeseen circumstances we have ceased operations." It has since been taken down.
“On the website they apologized to all their costumers, and there's not a word about what they did to their employees,” said Ellison.
On Sunday, LME released a new statement, saying, "Unfortunately our lender is in control of all finances. The lender must be paid all monies owed to the lender first before payment can be made to the employees. This process will take at least 90 days, if not longer".
“I believe they intentionally stole from every employee,” said Ellison. “I’d like to see somebody in prison for this.”
At this point, ABC 6 News has not heard of any action taken by employees against LME.
Ellison says he's applied for unemployment.
As for SEMA, Hart says they are working with a new trucking company and deliveries resumed on Tuesday.
This all comes as a strict new bipartisan wage theft law goes into effect in Minnesota. Gov. Tim Walz says "If a worker has their wages stolen, it's no different than any other kind of theft."
Created: July 16, 2019 11:24 PM
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