BURLINGTON, Vt., Sep. 2 – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), along with Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.), on Thursday sent a letter to Corbel Capital Partners’ CEO Jeffrey Schwartz in support of workers affected by the recent and unexpected closure of LandAir, based in Williston, Vermont.
LandAir, a less-than-truckload freight company, had 11 locations in New England, including two in Vermont and two in Massachusetts, and employed 450 workers. Corbel, a California-based private equity firm, purchased the company in 2018.
The congressmembers highlighted that private equity firms like Corbel have “a track record of buying up family-run businesses like LandAir, loading them up with debt, then leaving out the back door, making out like bandits while workers and communities pay the price.” Bankruptcy filings show that LandAir owes nearly $34 million in debt to Corbel.
Under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act at the Federal level and several similar laws at the state level, LandAir was required to issue notice to employees at least 45 days before the complete closure of a worksite. LandAir did not give workers or states any notice of the closures.
“By all accounts, workers were blindsided by the closure. First, nighttime drivers were laid off without warning. When other employees raised concerns with management about job security, they were told not to worry and that the firm was going through a ‘restructuring,’” they wrote in the letter. “Corbel manages a portfolio worth $1 billion and has conducted $8 billion in deals. Let’s be clear: you have every penny at your fingertips needed to ensure these workers are taken care of.”
The congressmembers demanded Schwartz provide all employees affected by the closure with severance pay for the entire period of notification they should have been given.
“It is clear to us that you will do everything in your power to maximize your revenues for your executives and investors, with no regard for your employees or countless businesses that will be harmed by your bankruptcy filing,” they wrote to Schwartz. “Workers, local small businesses, and our communities deserve better. When you acquired LandAir, you also acquired its obligations and responsibilities to its workers. There must be no get out of jail free card.”
Read the full letter here.