Herrin Whirlpool Plant Closing - 1000 Jobs Lost

Herrin Whirlpool Plant Closing - 1000 Jobs Lost
By: Arnold Wyrick
Herrin, IL - For the past four decades Southern Illinois families have made a good living at the old Maytag plant in Herrin, Illinois. But that all changed on Wednesday morning when workers were called into a general meeting at the facility.
"We were working the assembly line and they shut it down. And then they sent us all to the warehouse to tell us it was over. That they were shutting down by the end of the year. It was heartbreaking," says Katrena Sims of Herrin.
Whirlpool Corporation made the decision to shut down operations at three North American facilities. Their decision to close up the plant in Herrin will cost the region $35,000,000 annually in payroll.
"First I was very down. Then I got mad, and I'm getting over the mad. But it could come back at any minute. These people deserve better then what they got today. It wasn't right," says Herrin Mayor Vic Ritter.
Mayor Ritter read Whirlpool's official statement during a press conference at city hall Wednesday morning. Several legislators, and local leaders were on hand to hear the devastating news.
"This is a huge blow to our region," says Williamson County Board Chairman Bob Barnett.
Workers were given a days pay, and the rest of the day off after the announcement at the plant.
"I'm 51 years old, and I've got to find a job. I've got to compete with all the 20 year olds, and 30 year olds out there. Thankfully my kids are grown and I only have to worry about myself. But I've still got to make it until I'm old enough to retire," says Mike Soeder of Herrin.
Some of the workers feel that they've been taken advantage of my the new owners of the company.
"I don't think it was handled very professionally. I've worked out there for 17 years and nobody said anything about this happening. They all acted like nobody knew anything about it. And I think more people knew about it, they just didn't want to tell us," says Jerry Edmond of Herrin.
From the looks of the printed and dated brochure handed out to employees at the meeting. The Whirlpool logo was printed on the outside along with Wednesdays date. On the inside a long list of possible questions employees might have about their jobs and futures, was accompanied by answers.
"It's going to cause a huge ripple effect throughout Southern Illinois. And you're left with wondering what to do? What's next? Where do you go from here," says Cheryl Moyers of Herrin.
Mayor Ritter and other local leaders vowed to fight, to keep the old Maytag plant in operation. But Whirlpool's spokesperson Jody Lau says the corporations decision is final. And they plan to cease all operations in Herrin, Illinois and Searcy, Arkansas by the end of 2006. The Maytag plant they now own in Newton, Iowa will be shuttered in 2007. Maytag's headquarters based in Schaumburg, Illinois will be consolidated to Whirlpool's headquarters in Benton Harbor, Michigan.