Vista Employee Says Writing on the Wall Wasn’t Always Clear or Accurate

January 22nd, 2019 by Drew Vass, Executive Editor

You’re [darned] if you do and [darned] if you don’t. That’s more or less the argument officials for Vista Window Company made for why they left the company’s employees hanging like empty stockings over the holidays—without pay or prior notice of its closure. While keeping its employees in the dark took away any chances they had for getting an early jump on unemployment and job hunting, officials claim that revealing its status may have impacted any final hopes for securing new capital or business. Instead, they blind sided employees with a layoff on January 14, while announcing its closure.

“You don’t make a decision like this over the weekend,” says Michael Anderson, one of the company’s transport drivers. “I was angry with myself,” he adds, noting that, while there were plenty of signs that Vista was in trouble, he’d taken the bait for false hope—a final air of success, possibly designed to lure in last-minute investors.

As a driver for outgoing products, Anderson says he maintained a pretty good idea of the company’s success, based on the number of products he transported in a given day. Over the course of his 10-1/2 years with Vista, he says he’d deliver around 250 products per shipment, while averaging around 50 hours of work per week. In 2018, however, “It felt like I was in a life boat with a dozen holes in it,” he says. Suddenly his hours were cut back to 25-30 per week, he says, as his truck often left the plant with only 25-30 products in it.

Labor laws exist to help protect individuals like Anderson from being blindsided with layoffs. Enacted in 1988, the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN) requires companies employing more than 100 workers to provide a minimum of 60 days advanced notice of any plant closing affecting 50 or more. But when DWM obtained a copy of the Employment and Training Administration’s guidelines for WARN, we found there are exceptions, including precisely the circumstances claimed by Vista officials.

Warn provides a loophole for the requirement of 60-days’ notice for, “When, before a plant closing, a company is actively seeking capital or business and reasonably in good faith believes that advance notice would preclude its ability to obtain such capital or business, and this new capital or business would allow the employer to avoid or postpone a shutdown for a reasonable period.” When we obtained a copy of Vista’s statement to the Ohio Office of Workforce Development, we found that verbiage echoed practically verbatim, suggesting that, “giving notice would have ruined the opportunity to get the new capital or business.” With or without those requirements, however, while the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration (ETA) administers WARN, according to information published by the administration, it has no enforcement role in seeking damages for workers.

So why, then, when Anderson felt his company losing its grip on sales and shipments, didn’t he move to another company? As it turns out, he did. In September 2018, Anderson says he left Vista to seek new employment, but then, sometime in November, it appeared that the company’s fate had made a U-turn, he says, when he was called back to work and informed that he’d be given 40 hours per week anda raise. As a result, he returned to his position as a driver. But despite those positive signs, shortly thereafter (on December 8), the company laid off 23 employees, before sending the remaining 87 home on hiatus. A two-week break around the holidays, Anderson says, was normal for Vista.

Scheduled to return to work January 7, Anderson says he received notice of a conference call scheduled for January 2, to “discuss new company policies,” he was told. But that call, it turns out, never had anything to do with company policy, he alleges. Instead, he says that employees were told that the company wanted to make itself “more profitable” amid slower sales, and would therefor need to operate on a skeleton crew until further notice.

“They lied about the nature of that conference call and were only delaying our layoffs,” he alleges. “I asked them, ‘What am I supposed to tell my mortgage company? That I’m just off [from making payments] until further notice?’”

The tone was “disingenuous,” Anderson suggests. And for him—and many other employees, he says—that was the final red flag. Rumors began to fly on social media. Then, sometime around January 8 or 9, he says, a companywide text message called for a meeting at 7 a.m. on January 14.

“I knew that was it,” Anderson explains. That Monday morning, Vista’s president delivered the message: It was over.

“You don’t make a decision like this over the weekend,” Anderson says. Meanwhile, “I was angry with myself,” he adds, for taking the bait and establishing false hope, instead of continuing to look for new employment. Meanwhile, the dealers he delivered to for more than a decade, he says were also blind-sided. Orders they’d placed, would never come in, he says. According to Vista’s statement, the closing is permanent.

In the meantime, Anderson is seeking full-time employment with a business he previously worked part-time for (when Vista was slim on hours), but says he’d love to find another company to drive for.

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  1. when u sell windows too cheap it will catch up to you eventually. im sure there will be more of these companys to go down soon, buyer beware.. stick with solid companys like Wincore, Simonton, Polaris etc. you will pay more but they will be there for you over the long haul. Tim Weiand, owner, Weiand Supply

  2. As an ex employee after 10 years off and on I’ve seen Vista go up and down. The end of the road was rocky, but alot of us tried to do our best for the company. We was like a family! No-one deserved what they did to us. Nor did they seem to care. They did not give us 60 days or the correct amount of pay when they said goodbye forever. I miss u all, and hope u all find employment asap. ❤

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