Did Colibri Shutdown Violate Law?

The sudden shutdown of the 80-year-old Colibri Group on Jan. 14 outraged its 280 workers, with some claiming the company violated federal law.

The closing was announced in a Jan. 14 evening e-mail from president and CEO James R. Fleet. But some workers didn’t find out until they came to work Jan. 15 and found the message posted on locked doors. The company, which owed $28 million to banks and about $6 million to other creditors, was put into receivership at the request of majority shareholder Founders Equity.

Displaced Colibri employees held a 250-person rally at the company’s former headquarters in February, charging the shutdown violated the 1989 federal WARN Act, which says employers of 100 or more must give 60 days’ notice of plant closings. They demanded 60 days of pay and health coverage. Rhode Island state senator Juan M. Pichardo, who supports the workers, told JCK he was petitioning for federal support.

Court-appointed receiver Alan M. Shine attended the rally and, noting the chilly weather, opened the building and invited the protesters into its cafeteria. “They were left out in the cold Jan. 14, and I didn’t want to leave them out in the cold again,” he told JCK. He promised the workers “they’ll get fair and appropriate treatment from the receiver and the court.”

Officials of Colibri and Founders Equity couldn’t be reached for comment.