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American of Martinsville adds layoffs
Twenty more workers to be let go
Sunday, August 17, 2008
By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer
American of Martinsville's plans to move its casegoods division overseas resulted in the layoffs of 20 more employees on Friday.
The layoffs were effective immediately, said Bobby Mims, the company's vice president of human resources.
Most of the employees laid off Friday were at American's corporate office and were support staff for the division, Mims said. They included office staff and some management, he said, although he did not immediately know how many managers were affected.
In July, American announced that by late summer it would eliminate about 400 jobs - mostly among production workers - at its Redd Level plant off Rives Road, as well as end most wood furniture production at the plant. Mims said the 20 people who were laid off Friday were not included in that 400.
However, he said he could not specify a total number of employees losing their jobs due to the casegoods division moving overseas because the 400 workers was a "guestimate" and that number of layoffs may not actually occur.
American makes bedroom furniture for hotels and senior living centers. The bulk of its casegoods production is being shifted overseas so the company can remain competitive in the marketplace, company officials have said.
The layoffs are "not the fault of the employees," Mims said. "These are great employees who supported the company for many years" overall.
Employees who were laid off Friday had worked for American for different lengths of time, Mims said. Some were longtime employees while others had worked for the company for only a few months, he said.
Considering that casegoods production is going overseas, he said, basically there was "nowhere else" in the company where the workers could move.
American has no plans to further trim its work force, Mims said, but "we will adjust as our business conditions dictate."�
He did not rule out the possibility of some laid-off workers being called back if business conditions eventually change and they are needed again.
Company President Noel Chitwood was out of town Friday and not available for comment.
Mims said he has talked with about half of the employees laid off Friday. He said they expressed disappointment, yet some indicated they were expecting to be laid off, even though they had not been told they might be.
After the original announcement of layoffs, it seemed "most people put it together" and "suspected other positions would be affected," he said.
Those laid off Friday are eligible for federal Trade Act benefits and other benefits available through the Virginia Employment Commission, Mims said.
Ironically, the layoffs Friday occurred as the local Workforce Career Center was holding a job fair at the Redd Level plant for the original 400 displaced employees, most of whom Mims said are production workers. He said the newly laid-off employees also were encouraged to stop by the fair.
Layoffs for the original 400 are planned to start Aug. 31. Mims said plans are for those workers to be laid off gradually as they are no longer needed, but he could not give a more specific timetable.
"All 400 will not be laid off at the same time," he said.