JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL)- Employees at U.S. Marble in Johnson City are out of a job and demanding compensation after the company abruptly closed its doors.
The Michigan-based countertop production company reported having up to 500 employees. News Channel 11 has yet to confirm that but employees say just over 20 people worked at the Johnson City location.
A dozen of them spoke out on Friday.
“We have figure out how we’re going to pay our bills, how we’re going to feed our kids,” said Crystal Wilcox, who said she worked in production scheduling for about a year and a half.
Employees said they were first informed of financial issues last month. A December 23rd email provided to News Channel 11 said a restructuring officer was being appointed to determine how to cease operations and liquidate the company. It warned some employees and customers could become members of a new organization if locations were sold.
“Effective immediately–NO FURTHER CUSTOMER DEPOSITS should be taken,” the email said. It was signed by Karl Adrian, CEO of Clio Holdings, the parent company of U.S. Marble.
News Channel 11 reached out to Clio Holdings and U.S. Marble for comment and to confirm the authenticity of emails on Friday. Neither have responded. Both company’s websites have been taken down.
On December 29th, another email from Adrian said employees would be put on unpaid furlough until January 5th.
A separate email sent that day from U.S. Marble President & General Manager David Mitchum addressed rumors that the company was closing. It said, “At no point have I been told that USM is closed for business, but I am being told to conduct business as usual.”
Less than a week later, on January 3rd, employees found out they were losing their jobs and health insurance — effective immediately.
“We will be able to draw unemployment, some of us. But we didn’t have no instructions on who to contact, how to do it, no kind of guidance whatsoever,” said Ritta Tittle. She said she worked as a shipping coordinator for U.S. Marble for nine years.
Tittle said employees were promised a final pay check and compensation for unused paid time off by Friday, January 10th but on the afternoon of January 9th they got an email saying they would have to wait. It was sent by Brian Crane, the corporate controller at Clio Holdings, according to LinkedIn.
“The way they went about doing this put all of us in a bind,” said Larry Lowe, who said he’s been a truck driver for U.S. Marble for a total of 5 years. “They act like they don’t care whether we got the money that we need or not as long as they got their pockets stuffed.”
The American Jobs Center in Johnson City provides a number of resources, including resume workshops, career assessments, job training information and unemployment assistance.
Brian Wilson, one-stop operator and director of workforce development for American Job Centers in Northeast Tennessee, said they normally reach out to employees before a company closes.
“In this case we weren’t notified but we wanted to get the word out to those people who are being effected that if they come into our career centers we’re here and we can assist them,” Wilson said.
The center reached out to U.S. Marble to obtain a list of employees but, so far, they’ve been unsuccessful.
They’re not alone.
Mitch Miller, CEO of the Northeast Tennessee Regional Economic Partnership said he’s tried to get more information from U.S. Marble but he’s yet to hear back.
Tennessee Department of Labor Spokesperson Chris Cannon said they also weren’t notified about the closure. He said companies with 50 employees or more are required by the WARN Act to file notification with the department 60 days prior to closure. There is no such requirement for businesses with fewer workers.
As employees work to get back on their feet, they have a message for management at U.S. Marble. “We deserve answers to our questions that we are not getting. We want what we worked for, what we have earned, what we deserve and what we were told we would be getting. Nothing more, nothing less,” Wilcox said.