Coral Springs medical supply company executive Chip Starnes, 42, was released Thursday after being held by workers at his Specialty Medical Supplies factory in Beijing amid allegations of unpaid wages. He spoke with the Today show from China before his release. Company co-owner Les Capella talked about a text Starnes sent him.
The wife of a Coral Springs medical supply company executive said he is on his way back home after six days in captivity in Beijing.
Chip Starnes, 42, was released Thursday after being held by workers at his Specialty Medical Supplies factory amid allegations of unpaid wages.
The workers said they had not been paid in two months, but Starnes has denied those allegations.
"I'm so relieved, so happy," wife Cecily Starnes said. "Just to get him out of there is so wonderful, it's a load off our shoulders."
Although she is relieved to get him back, she said she was worried when she spoke with him after his release.
"When I talked to him he sounded very scared and worried," Cecily Starnes said.
She said he was taken to a waiting car as a press conference was held next door. He told her they made him switch cars twice, took him to his hotel to get his clothes, and from there, took him to the airport.
"I think he said he was threatened, but I'm not sure," Cecily Starnes said.
She said she did not know the terms of his release.
About 100 workers had demanded back pay and severance packages identical to those offered 30 workers being laid off from the company's plastics division. The demands followed rumors that the entire plant was being closed, although Starnes said the company doesn't plan to fire the others.
Chu Lixiang, head of the rights and interests department of the Huairou District Labour Union, told reporters that both sides had reached an agreement. The union said all 97 workers who signed the agreement were "fully satisfied" with it, according to NBC News.
Chip Starnes was expected to land in Fort Lauderdale shortly after midnight early on Friday.
"He sent me a text last night saying he was jumping on a plane and that's all it said," said Les Capella, the co-owner of Specialty Medical Supplies.
He said Starnes would go back to China at some point.
“Yeah, I mean it’s our factory. Of course," Capella said.