Russell workers face

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 19, 1999

anxious days ahead


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Published Sept. 19, 1999

Losing one’s job is almost always a traumatic experience no matter what the circumstance.

Even though Russell’s downsizing announcement was not completely unexpected, many employees were reduced to tears and almost all reeled from being cast into a sea of the unknown.

Lois Arnett was perhaps one of the more fortunate ones, if one can find an aspect of fortune in losing their job.

"I was going to have to retire in February anyway to look after my husband who has health problems," said Arnett, "so I’m not going to be as affected by this as other people. I feel for them – I really do. It’s bad when you lose your job, your insurance and your security. I don’t know what some of them will do."

What Arnett does know is that "it’s a shame for our jobs to be sent overseas."

"It’s a sad situation when a company based right here in Alabama can’t keep their business at home," she said. "I’m not blaming Russell. I understand how the world market is and how they have to compete with other companies, but it’s just a shame that our people are being put out of work like this. It’s a bad situation we’re in – real bad."

Arnett said most of her co-workers are unhappy and disappointed that they won’t have a job and fearful that they can’t find another one.

"Every day I hear people talking, trying to think of something they can do to make ends meet," she said. "Some of them are thinking about keeping children or cleaning houses or doing anything they can to make a living."

Arnett said Russell will have about 70 jobs in the cutting operation open but a lot of those who work in the sewing operation are single mothers and can’t work the 12-hour shifts required in the cutting operation.

"They have young children they have to care for and, working 12-hours shifts makes it hard to get children to and from school," Arnett said. "The cutting operation will work two days and be off two days. That means they will have to work some weekends and it’s hard to find anybody to keep children on the weekends. So, all of that pretty much does away with any possibility of working in the cutting operation."

Finding a job is a must for most of the Russell sewing machine operators, not only because of the loss of income but because of the loss of insurance.

"The company will continue to pay our insurance for 90 days, then we can pick it up on COBRA but that’s $180 a month for an individual. For a family, the insurance would probably be $300 a month. Who could afford that?"

Arnett said the severance pay will be a week’s salary for every year worked. At best that’s four years for most all of the workers.

"We halfway expected to be downsized but that doesn’t make it any easier when it comes," she said. "This is home for most of us at the plant. A few might want to go somewhere else to find work but most people want to stay around home and will do any work they can get so they can stay.

"But I have faith that the Lord will take care of us. He’s going to look after everybody and we’ll all get by – some way we’ll all get by."