Displaced Colibri Workers Demand Pay Mandated by U.S. Law

Scores of ousted Colibri workers and supporters rallied Tuesday at the shuttered company’s East Providence, R.I., headquarters, demanding 60 days pay and benefits, in accord with the 1989 federal “WARN Act.” That federal law says employers of 100 or more workers must give 60 days’ notice of plant closings and mass layoffs.

Fuerza Laboral, a Rhode Island workers’ rights group which helped organize the rally, claims Colibri and its majority owner, Founders Equity of New York City, violated that law.

Colibri, one of America’s best-known suppliers of independent and chain jewelers, unexpectedly shut down Jan. 14, blaming “current economic conditions and credit market turmoil.” Published reports alleged it owed creditors and vendors about $33 million.

Its 280 workers (including E. Providence, Cranston, and North Smithfield, R.I.) learned of the sudden shutdown by e-mail the night of Jan. 14 or from a message posted at the headquarters’ locked doors the next day, when they came to work.

Workers at the rally—many holding signs calling for “Justice for Workers” and “Respect for Workers”—told local media of their shock and disappointment at the company’s actions. “I feel sad, I feel bad at the way they treated us,” said Iris Solena, a 14-year Colibri employee.

State senator Juan M. Pichardo, who is active in minority and immigrants’ issues, told the displaced workers that he is writing to the Rhode Island’s congressional delegation, and sending a copy to President Barack Obama, informing them of the situation.

Also speaking at the noontime rally were representatives of the clergy, labor and Fuerza Laboral.

Workers are seeking 60 days pay and health insurance coverage, and severance pay equal to the years an employee worked for Colibi.

A receiver was appointed in January by the Rhode Island Superior Court, granting Founders Equity’s petition, to oversee disposal of Colibri’s assets—including the Colibri, Krementz and Seth Thomas brand names—to pay its debts. Consensus Advisors, a Boston firm which provides investment banking, strategic advisory, and restructuring services to businesses, has been selected to find specific buyers for the various business lines owned or operated by Colibri, as well as associated inventory. A number of companies reportedly have expressed interest in buying some or all of Colibri’s assets and brand names.

A video of the displaced Colibri workers rally can be found on the Providence Journal Web site.

Photo of protesting workers by Providence Journal