State filing confirms Evergreen shutdown
Statement released under owner's name contradicts memo sent to employees
Del Smith, founder and owner of Evergreen International Aviation, issued a statement at the close of the business day Friday denying a News-Register report that it intends to close its air cargo subsidiary, Evergreen International Airlines, at the end of the month.
However, Smith's statement was contradicted in an internal company memo Evergreen filed earlier in the day under the WARN Act, which requires notice of mass layoffs and plant closures. A Friday press release from the state agency said Evergreen would lay off 131 employees, but it did not address the issue of business closure.
In a Thursday memo copied to Smith and other Evergreen executives, and filed with the state Friday, Evergreen Human Resources Manager Monique Gregory said the cargo carrier intends to "end all operations." The memo was addressed to "All Evergreen International Airlines Employees."
“The last day of all operations will be November 30, 2013," Gregory wrote in her memo. "Therefore, the last day of employment for employees will range from current day (11/07/2013) through November 30, 2013, with a small number of specific employees remaining to complete the closing requirements ... The loss of our company is very unfortunate; however, we appreciate your continued excellent service during this ending phase.”
State rules require that such notices be filed 60 days in advance, but Evergreen actually provided fewer than 30 days. A former company employee estimated that the cargo hauler was already down to fewer than 140 employees when the notice was issued, but that could not be officially confirmed.
The News-Register began getting word Thursday morning, from both current and former employees, of the closure memo.
A reporter placed multiple calls to the company seeking comment, but they went unreturned Thursday and Friday, even though the story began circulating Thursday evening online and Friday morning in print.
The denial released under Smith's name arrived shortly before 5 p.m. Friday. It came less than an hour after state issuance of a press release on the company's WARN Act filing.
In the release, Smith said:
“As has previously been reported in the press, Evergreen's business has been adversely impacted over the past several years by decreased demand in military spending and weakness in global economic markets. Management has moved to aggressively address these challenges, including through the divestiture of businesses and assets and the significant reduction of secured debt. Evergreen is in discussions with its significant constituencies and is exploring available strategic alternatives with those constituencies. While Evergreen does not generally comment on market rumor or conjecture, rumors that a decision has been made to cease operations at this time are false. Evergreen remains committed to continuing to address the current business environment with its customers.”
The contradiction could not be immediately rectified, as the business day had closed by the time it was received.
The Portland Business Journal was the first news outlet to obtain a copy of the memo filed with the state and report on its contents. It filed a story early Friday evening noting the discrepancy between Smith's statement and the memo filed with the state.