North Country Snowplow Maker Sued For Labor Violations

Attorney General Spitzer today filed a lawsuit against the owner of a Jefferson County snowplow manufacturing company that abruptly ceased operations without paying dozens of workers for wages and benefits.

The lawsuit charges David Lowry and the company he owned -- Frink America, Inc., in Clayton -- with violations of state labor laws for willfully failing to provide wages and benefits to the company’s employees. The lawsuit, filed today in Jefferson County Supreme Court in Watertown seeks $91,627.41 in compensation and $40,831.85 in damages for willfully failing to make the payments.

Lowry, the owner, president and chief executive officer of the company, abruptly closed Frink America on May 31, 2000. When he did so, he failed to fully pay the wages, commissions and other benefits due to most of his 76 employees.

Frink America, in business since the 1920s, was a premier manufacturer of heavy duty highway, airport and commercial snowplows. The company was founded in Clayton by Carl Frink, a tire shop owner, who is credited with inventing and developing the first steel snowplow.

"This case is about doing right by New York workers," said Attorney General Spitzer. "There is nothing more fundamental than the understanding between a company and its workers that wages will be paid for labor provided. When a company violates that trust, my office will be there defending the rights of wronged employees."

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, which represented employees at Frink America, expressed gratitude for the Attorney General’s efforts to help former Frink America workers.

Tom Holl, Business Manager for the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, AFL-CIO Local 761, said: "We would like to thank Attorney General Spitzer for taking this action on behalf of the workers of Frink America. We will assist Mr. Spitzer however we can in his effort to recover wages and benefits that Mr. Lowry denied his workers."

The Attorney General’s office began investigating the case in July 2000 after staff at its Watertown Regional Office received complaints from several former employees of Frink America.

The investigation was aided by former members of the Frink America management team who came forward with information that is essential to the lawsuit.

In July and August 2000, Lowry and Frink America made partial payment to some of the workers to whom it owed money. However, Lowry and the company suspended the payment program and the employees have not received the wages and other benefits owed them.

The case is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Jim O’Rourke in charge of the Watertown Regional Office, and by Assistant Attorney General C. Michael Higgins of the Labor Bureau.