An employee of Golden Guernsey dairy has filed a complaint with the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development over the Waukesha plant's abrupt closing over the weekend.
Workers were surprised Saturday when they learned they no longer had jobs. With 112 employees, Golden Guernsey workers told Waukesha Patch they had no warning that they would be out of work.
Robert Storm left work at 8 p.m. Friday, according to the complaint. He received a phone call from co-workers on Saturday saying they were told to pack up and go home.
“I showed up for work on Jan. 7, gates were locked,” Storm wrote.
Storm said in the complaint the company that owned the milk processing plant, OpenGate Capital, had the property appraised in December.
“I am sure the wheels were in motion to close the plant then,” Strom wrote.
The company started in 1930 as a farmer-owned cooperative in Milwaukee, and by 1935, Golden Guernsey delivered milk to the homes of 20,000 customers in Wisconsin, according to its website. By 1955 construction began at its current facility at 2101 Delafield St.
Dean Foods was ordered to sell the plant by the U.S. and Wisconsin Departments of Justice in order to settle an antitrust lawsuit because Dean Foods owned about 60 percent of milk processing plants in the state. an investment firm that planned to continue operations of the dairy processing facility.
In his complaint, Storm attributes the company’s closure to the OpenGate Capital deal.
“Please look into OpenGate Capital,” Storm wrote. “They are an investment firm with other assets and because they had no idea how to get milk from the teat to the table is the DOJ’s fault for not wanting someone with dairy business purchasing the plant when they and (former U.S. Sen. Russ) Feingold got the wheels in motion.”
The Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development provided this information about its process in investigation Storm’s complaint:
The state Business (Plant) Closing and Mass Layoff Law states that, with certain exceptions, employers with 50 or more workers must provide notice 60 days in advance of when 25 or more employees are affected by a business closing or 25 percent of the workforce is affected by a mass layoff.
As with any complaint alleging violation of the law, the ERD’s Labor Standards Bureau will conduct a complete and thorough investigation and make a determination based on all relevant facts.
The general process following an investigation is as follows:
- The ERD makes an initial determination with a recommended order, which can be appealed administratively before a final determination is made.
- If the Division finds no violation occurred, the case is closed. If the ERD finds payment is due to employees, the D\division orders payment within a certain time period.
- Orders that are not followed are referred to the state Department of Justice with a request that DOJ seek payment of the wages due plus a 100% increase (double the amount).
Additionally, state law indicates an employer can be liable for a forfeiture of $500 per day it failed to notify the municipality where the plant closing or mass layoff occurred.