employees Leo Zawanda, left,
Jimmy McKee and Sim Morris.
Labs employees try to adjust to a different life
This holiday season
will be a tough one to remember for Rick Day, who will be laid off from
Vernay Laboratories on Dec. 20. The same is true of the 14 other production
workers who have been with Vernay for 7 to 10 years and are being laid
off in the companys second wave of terminations.
The Day family, however, wont just lose one income. Days wife,
Nicole, was laid off from Vernay in October, as was his brother.
Hard times are getting ready to come upon us, and everythings
going to have to change, Day said. Its going to be real
tight, its going to be rough.
Many workers say Vernay felt like a family, and many families worked there.
Richard Whittington and his brother Timothy, who live together in Xenia,
both worked at Vernay. Brenda Weaver and her brother David Lloyd worked
there after their mother did, and Weavers son had hopes of working
there too one day. But not anymore.
In June, Vernay announced plans to close its two plants on Dayton Street,
eliminating 185 jobs. The local operations will be moved to the companys
facilities in the South, though its headquarters will remain in Yellow
By next September, when the largest plant is scheduled to close, most
of the employees will have had to face the same thing: finding another
All the workers say the current job market is difficult, and many have
been looking since they first learned of the plant closings. Those who
have already been laid off have been sending out applications since as
early as August, and very few have heard anything back. Finding a comparable
manufacturing position with equal pay after making upwards of $13 an hour
with benefits at Vernay makes the search even more difficult.
Joe Regan lives in Yellow Springs and has been with Vernay for over 25
years, yet he wont be quite old enough to retire when he loses his
job next year.
Factory work in the U.S. is a dead end, Regan said. The
good paying jobs are moving out of the country or theyre going down
South where the companies have a right to work their employees at low
wages without benefits.
Rick Day, who lives in Xenia, has been looking far and wide for a job
that pays close to his current wage of $16.28 an hour. He has applied
for jobs with the ABF trucking company in New Carlisle, the Bob Evans
slaughter house distribution center in Springfield, a SuperValue warehouse
in Washington Court House and other places in Xenia. He has house payments,
car payments, credit card debt and an 11-year-old son to take care of.
The almost guaranteed cut in pay, at least for now, will be an adjustment.
He and Nicole will both be drawing unemployment by next week, about $500
combined every two weeks, Day said, though they and Ricks son wont
have health insurance.
Brenda Weaver is in a similar position. She lives in Xenia with her husband
and two children. She was laid off on Oct. 11, and the best offer she
has been able to find is a job starting at minimum wage and topping off
at $10 an hour.
The employees believed the plant would never leave Yellow Springs,
so you go out and you buy a home, you buy new cars, everything,
Weaver said. They tell you theyre going to be there and then
they kick you out and you cant pay all the bills.
Vernay offers its employees a severance package of $150 per year of service
if they stay until their layoff date and if they sign away the right to
file any future claims against the company. The employees are also given
the option to buy continued health care coverage at 25 percent of the
cost for six months.
Workers say a few people just quit on the spot, but most couldnt
afford not to work as long as possible. The Whittington brothers did not
sign up to receive their severances, but they took the health insurance
It depends on each familys situation, Richard Whittington
said. Thats not bad for me, but Im single. If you have
one or two kids, youre going to be putting out a good deal of money
for health insurance.
Day could get a $1,500 severance, but he said he and Nicole couldnt
afford to pay for the health insurance, which would take almost their
whole unemployment check. He will most likely relinquish the right to
sue in order to get his severance.
Id rather do it that way because once I sign the papers and
leave, Ill never have anything to do with that company again, and
Ill be done with it, Day said.
But workers whose retirement money is tied to Vernay wont forsake
the company altogether. Vicki Bridgette is scheduled to be laid off next
June, when she will have 25 years in with the company. She wont
be old enough for retirement benefits, but it will be right around the
bend, and she wants to make sure Vernay can pay for it when the time comes,
Regan had hoped to retire early and live comfortably on his pension, company
stock dividends and other investments. Now he will have to work 10 more
years until he reaches federal retirement age, when his pension wont
be worth as much as it would be right now.
What I lose is insurance until I can retire and early pension benefits,
Regan said. I dont have a stake in the companys success,
Im only hoping they dont become bankrupt so I can get my retirement.
For now its back to the job hunt. Most workers say that even with
their severance and the money theyve tried to save the past few
months, they can only sustain their lifestyles a few months before something
has to give.
Workers say Greene Works, the countys unemployment service, has
been helpful. The program provides job training in areas such as computers,
healthcare and truck driving, plus it extends unemployment benefits for
continuing education courses for up to a year. The agency also posts job
listings and helps prospective employees to improve their strengths through
skills and comprehension testing for favorable job placement.
Timothy Whittington, who was laid off in October, went to Greene Works
for a two-day computer training course.
The test shows you what youre good at and what you like, and
the guy at Greene Works suggested I learn computers, Whittington
said. You learn the basics of how to operate a computer, you get
some interest in it, then you can take more advanced courses.
But Whittington wants to find a job before he takes more classes because
he doesnt want to have to limit his work schedule to accommodate
school. It makes sense but, he said, if he needs the skills before he
can get the job, he might be operating in an unfortunate cycle.
Day has plans to get his commercial drivers license through a three-week
Greene Works training course. His brother did it and he already has his
CDL, though he hasnt found work yet, Day said.
He might have to look for over the road work, where
youre gone pretty much all the time and youre lucky if youre
home at all on the weekends, Day said.
In spite of the hardship and adjustment Vernays employees have had
to make, they say they arent bitter toward the company as a whole
and that their sadness and distress is no ones fault.
Except maybe Toms, Regan said, referring to Vernays
president and CEO, Tom Allen. One day last week Tom came through
the plant and we all stood up and gave him a standing boovation,
But most say they like their jobs, their co-workers and the financial
stability they had with Vernay. Vicki Bridgette said she feels very connected
to her co-workers.
You have your home family and your work family, she said.
Most of the 20 people I hired in with are still there. We all thought
wed retire from there together.
Weaver tried for two decades to get a job with the company.
I had put four applications in since 1977 until they finally hired
me about 20 years later, she said. If they offered us back
our jobs Id go I loved my job.
Many employees said that the Yellow Springs community could have been
more supportive of them and the company. The village is not oriented toward
big business, they said. Some said they had shopped in town, put their
money in the local bank and credit union, paid local taxes and found little
appreciation for their participation.
We didnt see any letters to the editor about trying to save
peoples jobs, and no one has called about absorbing some of us for
openings at other industries in town, Bridgette said.
The focus for those who have left is finding another job. Those still
at Vernay are doing the best they can to maintain a calm working environment,
as layoff notices continue to be posted every few months, bringing morale
down a few more notches.
People are still trying to work, but theres a lot of distrust,
Bridgette said. People are wondering, will they stick to the layoff
plan? When will my time finally come? Whats going to happen to me?