Company Officials Rebut ‘Inflammatory’ Coverage In Press
Posted: January 25, 2013
By PRESTON KNIGHT
HARRISONBURG — Transprint USA officials rebutted several weeks of claims from employees Thursday that paychecks have either been withheld or dipped to minimum-wage levels.
While admitting the company is behind on payroll, Vice President Bonnie Julian and Paul Raybin, Transprint’s chief sustainability officer, say repetitive “inflammatory” and “false” comments made by employees in newspaper articles have upset customers and discouraged other workers.
“It doesn’t build on anything that is accurate,” Julian said. “It’s very unfair coverage for what happened.”
She adds that the average work tenure of employees is 17 years — proving their satisfaction — and that the company has been an “anchor” in the city for 36 years.
Transprint has a manufacturing plant on Pleasant Valley Road in Harrisonburg and corporate offices in New York City, where Julian, Raybin and CEO Larry Levy work.
Transprint produces heat transfer paper, which is used to form images on polyester fabrics. Colorep Inc., a printing and dyeing technology firm in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., bought Transprint from Harrisonburg resident William Boyd in 2007.
About a dozen employees spoke to the Daily News-Record outside the local plant on Dec. 13, when members of a shift crew refused to report to work, saying they wouldn’t return until they got paid what they’re owed.
At the time, employees said the company had failed to pay them for three weeks.
Those workers returned to the job either Dec. 14 or the following week. They say they have received paychecks since then, but the company remains six or seven weeks behind.
Also, the employees claim they have been paid minimum wage at times.
But Julian and Raybin say there were never weeks where employees were not paid, and claims of minimum wage rates were “incorrect.”
They would not say how far behind the company was, but added that the first paycheck that wasn’t a full one may have been around Thanksgiving.
“We fully intend and will make everyone whole,” Julian said. “The maximum amount of pay we can compensate employees … is going out. Employees are informed, they know it’s happening.”
Raybin added, “It doesn’t mean anybody is happy” about the company being behind in pay.
The two officials also said “maybe only five” employees out of the 104 they say work at the Harrisonburg plant didn’t show up when the boycott occurred.
Employees have estimated that Transprint has no more than 70 workers at the city location.
Complaints over unpaid wages have sparked a criminal investigation by the Rockingham County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office.
Also, Transprint employees have gone to Richmond to meet with legislators, lobbying for a Senate bill that would penalize companies that withhold wages. The bill passed the Senate Finance Committee this week.
Thursday was the first time Transprint officials responded to an interview request, despite repeated messages, since employees made their first public allegations about pay. The company issued a prepared statement on Jan. 11, expressing appreciation for employees in Harrisonburg, New York and Charlotte, and saying that the firm continued to pursue capital investment.
The delay in answering messages was because the company decided early on that it did not want to come across as critical of its employees or “focus on the media,” Raybin said.
Two employees reached after Transprint officials spoke Thursday maintained that their previous claims about not getting paid for weeks at a time were correct.
“I would take that with a spoon of whatever,” one employee said of Julian and Raybin’s comments.
Jesse Leskanic, who won a $600,000 judgment against Transprint in Rockingham County Circuit Court on Wednesday, was sympathetic to the company’s plight, but also felt for employees when asked to comment Thursday.
Leskanic, president of Cheran Digital Imaging & Consulting Inc. in South Carolina, was a supplier for Transprint for about 30 years.
From January 2011 to May 2012, he served as a consultant for Transprint. Leskanic also was vice president of operations at the Harrisonburg plant for about four months, though he never was an official employee, he said.
Transprint and Colorep have not paid Leskanic for recent services rendered, and also owed him because of a contract that was terminated early.
“At the end of the day, there are no winners,” he said. “Everyone is losing in this situation. I do know that [CEO] Larry [Levy] is fighting, trying very hard. People are probably thinking [company officials] are sitting up there in New York and enjoying the high life. I know it was never Larry’s intention not to pay these people. …
“Larry let everything else go. You can tell by the size of my judgment. This is not something that he is doing to try to put money in his pocket. He is counting fractions of pennies to try to keep this place going. I know he is living a nightmare.”
Yet Transprint hasn’t helped its cause from a public relations standpoint, Leskanic said.
“They’re probably the world’s worst at messaging anything,” he said.