Workshops aim to give hope, advice to Maytag workers

The following article by Becky Malkovich appeared in “The Southern” (Carbondale, IL) on October 10, 2006. David is quoted in this article.

CARTERVILLE – For those 942 employees who will lose so much when the Whirlpool/Maytag plant shuts down in December, David England has this advice: Do not lose hope.

“Any time in our life when we have a major event, whether it’s the loss of a job, a loved one or a divorce, the mindset gets cloudy. There’s anger, there’s hurt, there’s resentment and fear,” said England, an associate professor at John A. Logan who is conducting several “Focus on Finances” workshops for the soon-to-be-displaced workers.

“This is a tough group and they will succeed. I have no doubt about it. Two years from now, some will look back and say ‘Wow, this has been an opportunity. I had the chance to go back to school and get my degree, something I didn’t have before.’ And they’re going to come out on top,” he said. “There’s not one good thing about this situation, but the one thing they can’t lose is hope.”

Hope is a commodity in short supply for some of the employees who will lose their jobs come Dec. 22.

“I feel like I’m on death row,” said Clarence LeMaster of Creal Springs. “I’m the only breadwinner in my family and we’re basically living paycheck to paycheck right now. I’ve been looking for a job, but so far there is nothing out there.”

LeMaster, 53, started working at the Herrin plant right after he graduated from high school. He marked his 35th anniversary on the job by attending the finance workshop Monday night.

While he will get a severance package from the company, LeMaster said if his job search is not immediately successful, the money won’t last even a year.

“It’s kind of strange, working there so long, it’s the only thing I know. I don’t know what I’ll do when I wake up in the morning and don’t have that job to go to,” he said. “I feel like I’m too old to go back to school, but maybe I can try truck driving school or something in the vocational field.”

Kenny and Jackie Jarvis of Herrin also attended the workshop. Jackie Jarvis will lose the job she has held for 38 years when the plant closes.

“I’m stressed,” said Jarvis, who worked on the assembly line. “I thought I was going to retire there. We had saved our money over the years and had plans to build a new house, but now we can’t do that. We’re going to have to take that money and reinvest it so we’ll have something to live on. We were going to start construction next spring. It’s been very stressful.”

Her husband, who retired after almost 43 years at the plant, is concerned about insurance for his wife. “We have a little money stashed away, but not enough to prepare for something like this,” he said.

“Why, I’ve been checking into it and the insurance on Jackie alone will be $400 to $700 a month.”

The couple said they attended the workshop – the first in a two-part series – “to learn something, probably a lot.”

England said his goal for the workshops is to teach the employees and their families about the financial industry and how the industry can work for them.

Among the topics he will address in the workshops are 401K plans, stocks, market concepts and budgeting. For instance, when determining which, if any, bills to pay off immediately, England advises paying off high interest credit card bills.

“I want to plant a seed of hope. There is light at the end of the tunnel and it’s not a train,” England said.

The workshops are sponsored by Man-Tra-Con and its community partners.

Kathy Lively, Man-Tra-Con executive director, said the workshops are part of the process designed to ease the transition for the employees, their families and the region.

“A lot of this is about educating the whole community where we live about the struggles and the challenges that our workers, and therefore our communities, are going to be faced with when the plant closes,” she said.

Kristen Poshard of Man-Tra-Con said the closure will affect far more than the employees and their families. “The bigger picture involves the entire community, especially small businesses like diners, delis, even T-shirt design companies. A lot of organizations got their money from Maytag employees and this really will affect them,” she said. “By instructing people on how to deal with their finances now, we’re hoping the economic state of Herrin and all of Southern Illinois won’t take as big a hit as they potentially could.”