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Employees file suit as Evergreen sells more land

Mateusz Perkowski

Capital Press

Former Evergreen employees have filed suit against the company after it scaled back operations. The company's agricultural arm continues to sell parcels of farmland, according to county records.

Two former employees have accused Evergreen International Aviation, a transportation company with large land holdings in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, of violating a federal law related to mass layoffs.

The lawsuit claims that Evergreen terminated about 160 full-time workers in late November without providing them with two months of advance notice, as required by the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act.

The two plaintiffs — Christopher Tortorelli, who worked for Evergreen in McMinnville, Ore., and Jens Schulz, who worked at its site at the John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York — seek a class action lawsuit that would allow other ex-employees to join the litigation.

The complaint alleges that the laid off workers are entitled to two months’ worth of wages and other benefits following their terminations under the WARN Act.

Capital Press was unable to reach an executive at Evergreen for comment as of press time.

The fate of Evergreen is of interest to Oregon agriculture as the company produced a variety of crops on roughly 8,000 acres in the Willamette Valley.

The company and its subsidiaries have recently been selling some of that acreage in Yamhill County, according to county records.

On Dec. 6, Evergreen Agricultural Enterprises, a subsidiary, sold three parcels of undisclosed acreage for $1.65 million to Fredjohannevafarm, a limited liability company registered in Delaware.

On Nov. 27, the same subsidiary sold 16 parcels to Sarbanand Enterprises, an Oregon LLC, for $1 and “other consideration,” according to the deed.

County records show that Evergreen Vintage Aircraft, another subsidiary, sold several properties to Evergreen CEO Delford Smith in mid-November for zero dollars.

The three properties totaled nearly 147 acres with a market value of more than $2.3 million, according to county records.

The deeds noted that the “true consideration consists of other value given or promised.”

Parties in a land transaction can claim the property sold for zero dollars if they want to keep the actual amount private, said Jesse Lyon, an attorney at the Davis Wright Tremaine law firm, who specializes in agriculture.

Between June and October, Evergreen and Smith sold at least 1,000 acres in Yamhill County for $7.4 million, as previously reported in Capital Press.

Unionized flight crew employed by Evergreen International Airlines, a subsidiary company, released a statement claiming the airline flew its last flight in late November and had ceased operations.

“As far as the union knows, all of the planes have been parked and the lights are out at headquarters in McMinnville,” said James Touchette, a flight captain at Evergreen, in the statement.

However, the flight crew’s statement noted that executives at Evergreen previously indicated the airline would not be shutting down and would meet with lien holders to discuss the firm’s future.

In early November, a human resources executive at Evergreen’s airline subsidiary said the company was ceasing operations later that month.

However, Smith, the parent company’s CEO, issued a statement denying that the airline was going out of business and saying it was “exploring strategic alternatives” to stay open.

The statement acknowledged that the airline was harmed financially by weaker military spending and the economic downturn.



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