Golden Guernsey workers stand
outside the dairy on Jan. 9. The Department of Workforce
Development ruled that workers are owed $1.2 million from
Freeman file photo
WAUKESHA - The state Department of Workforce Development
has determined that former Golden Guernsey owner
OpenGate Capital broke the law by suddenly closing the
plant in January without giving the required 60 day
notice, and that the company owes workers more than $1
million in wages, vacation pay and more.
According to the
initial determination from the DWD, the parties have 10 days to
appeal. If that doesn’t happen, the DWD will forward its final
determination to the Department of Justice with a recommendation
that the DOJ file a claim on behalf of the employees in federal
Director John Dipko said the company owes actual wages of about
$335,000 to the approximately 100 employees who were affected by the
shutdown, and that the DWD also assesses “increased wages” for
OpenGate’s failure to give notice, in the amount that the employees
would have been paid had they been allowed to work those 60 days.
That grand total
comes to about $1.2 million, Dipko said.
In addition, the
DWD is recommending in its initial determination that OpenGate pay a
$30,000 fine for not giving the required closure notice, according
to the DWD’s initial determination.
from OpenGate didn’t return calls seeking comment Wednesday.
The plant closed
suddenly on Jan. 5. California-based Open-Gate Capital purchased the
iconic Delafield Street dairy in 2011 following an antitrust action
by the U.S. Department of Justice, together with the states of
Wisconsin, Michigan and Illinois, that ordered Dean Foods to sell
the plant. Soon after its closing, the 83-year-old plant filed for
Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Delaware.
OpenGate CEO Andrew Nikou issued a statement blaming operating
expenses, the union and a pressure to lower prices for the decision
to close the plant.
employee Bob Storm filed the initial complaint against the plant
with the DWD, but many other employees came forward as well.
Illinois-based Lifeway Foods acquired the bankrupt plant at a New
Jersey auction, with a winning bid of $7.4 million. As recently as
one month ago, Lifeway officials have said they plan to have the
plant reopened by the end of the year, likely producing probiotic
beverage Lifeway kefir.