Snyder County commissioner not happy with way 938 Wood-Mode workers told they were jobless
The Wood-Mode Inc. factory is seen in this photo taken September 18, 2018. (Designs by Jonathan via Google Maps)
(Middleburg) -The chairman of the Snyder County commissioners says he does not appreciate the way officials of Wood-Mode Inc. notified the 938 employees they were out of a job immediately.
“None was given any guidance,” Commissioner Joe Kantz said Tuesday.
Employees were notified Monday afternoon the 1.3 million-square-foot factory, located on a 23-acre campus in Kreamer, was closing immediately.
“This is devastating news for these workers, their families and the Snyder County community,” Gov. Tom Wolf said in a statement.
The state was unaware the company was shutting down until it received certified letter dated Monday from David Scarr, vice president of human resources.
It stated administrative employees were being permanently laid off immediately and production workers would be in phases by May 24.
The letter stated this was the official notice pursuant to the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act.
Scarr explained Wood-Mode was unable to provide more notice because management reasonably believed a sale would go through and its lender would continue to provide support through the process.
As the workers were told, the letter states Wood Mode learned May 7 the party that had agreed to acquire the business abruptly decided not to proceed with the transaction.
Then on Friday, Wood-Mode said it learned its lender was unwilling to provide additional funding that would enable the plant to remain open while exploring a sale to other potential buyers including one that submitted a letter of intent Thursday.
Workers knew there were problems but they did not anticipate the 77-year-old privately-owned company that made custom wood cabinets would shut its doors, Kantz said.
The surprise announcement was disheartening, but on the positive side he said at least 20 employers have contacted him about hiring the laid-off workers.
The Central Pennsylvania Workforce Development Corp. is coordinating a job fair only for Wood-Mode employees from 1 to 5 p.m. Wednesday at the VFW on Route 522 in Selinsgrove.
It has invited 160 local manufacturers along with other companies that have expressed interest in meeting with laid-off workers.
A team of specialists from the Labor and Industry’s Rapid Response Coordination Services will be available to meet with Wood-Mode employees at 10 a.m. May 21 in the Weber Chapel auditorium on the campus of Susquehanna University, also in Selinsgrove.
Information about unemployment compensation, job training and search activities, education services, health and pension benefits and financial credit programs will be available.
Reportedly, health benefits have been stopped and there was no retirement plan for newer employees, Kantz said.
In recent years salaries have been cut, bonuses have been eliminated and there have been layoffs at the plant that at one time employed 2,300, a retiree said.
Attempts by PennLive to reach top management were unsuccessful; Kantz said he also has been unable to reach anyone either.
One of the unknowns is whether owners still would be willing to sell given the information in the letter to the state.
Workers were told Monday they will be paid all earned wages and agreed-to fringe benefits.
Wood-Mode said it regrets the impact of the closing on employees, the community and loyal customers and suppliers.
The company was founded as Wood-Metal Industries in 1942 during World War II by four salesmen whose job of selling metal cabinets was in danger because steel was being diverted to the war effort.
Wartime scarcities prevented them from producing residential cabinetry, so products needed by the military were manufactured at a small lumber mill in Kreamer.
Military personnel returning from the war triggered a housing market boom and Wood-Metal began manufacturing cabinets. In 1956 it changed its name to Wood-Mode Kitchens.
The mostly non-union company in the 1970s expanded its line of cabinets to other rooms in the house and in 1972 opened a show room adjacent to the factory. The building included an auditorium used as a training school for designers.
Additional cabinet styles were introduced in the 1980s, including the Brookhaven line. Numerous improvements were made to the factory during that decade.
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