Cardell Cabinetry’s apparent shut down Monday morning took dozens of its employees by surprise.
Workers began showing up before 6 a.m., expecting to begin the workweek, but instead found security guards at the front gate who prevented them from entering the East Side business.
"They didn't say nothing, not to come in or nothing. That's kind of a sad way to do it,” said Joel Verastegui, who said he was blindsided by the closing. “I guess we have to live with it."
Verastegui had spent the past 12 years working for the company, located near Interstate 35 and AT&T Parkway, which manufactured cabinets that were shipped out across the country.
“They don’t have the nerve to tell us right out. It’s not much of a company to work for,” he said.
Unlike him and many others, James Gomez said he did get a heads-up about the shut down by way of a weekend phone call.
Still, he showed up as previously scheduled, hoping to find some work to do.
“I just thought they might need me,” Gomez said. “No notice, no official word, no nothing. Just a voicemail saying not to show up.”
He and a handful of other employees arrived before sunrise.
But by daylight, the crowd had swelled to about 200 people.
At one point, San Antonio police had to break up a traffic jam created by cars that were double parked on the I-35 South access road.
The human traffic remained, though, and crowded into Cardell’s parking lot.
Soon, people began pushing toward the company’s front gate, calling in Spanish for the plant manager to come out and offer an explanation.
But a guard at the gate told them their shouting was in vain.
"When (the plant manager) gets ready to make a statement, he'll come out,” he said. “Y'all being out here chanting is not going to help the situation."
A receptionist who answered Cardell’s phone Monday morning said no one with the company was available to talk about the closing.
Late Monday, Cardell's attorney, Howard Marc Spector sent the following response:
"The company maintained a contact list, but many employees did not have a current phone number on file with the company. We spent a great deal of time trying to connect with the employees over the weekend, and we think we reached almost 600 of the 900 employees. But obviously not all of them got our message, and even some of those who did elected to show up today despite the notice.
The reason for the plant closing was as stated in the press release -- the company could not meet its ongoing financial obligations to its customers and its creditors. The remaining Cardell employees will be working night and day to deal with many of the concerns posed in your email, in an orderly fashion, to minimize the unfortunate consequences on the employees. For example, we will start coordinating the retrieval of personal property by employees probably next week, in small groups, by prior appointment. And we are working on finding a buyer for the company so that we can minimize the duration and extent of the job loss on Cardell's work force."