United Furniture laid off its entire workforce on the night of Monday, November 21. About 2,700 employees lost their jobs, most of whom live in northeast Mississippi.
The Daily Journal provides updates throughout the day on this developing story.
CREATE, the Salvation Army mobilizes to help affected families (3:48 p.m. update)
The sudden overnight layoff of thousands of United and Lane Furniture employees brought out the best in Northeast Mississippi residents.
The Create Foundation set up a special assistance fund to help employees and the Salvation Army re-opened the Angel Tree registration to help their children.
“Even if you’ve never adopted an angel, we’re asking the community to consider it now,” said Salvation Army Captain Heather Dolby. “We want these United and Lane families to know that even in this time of upheaval, neighbors are concerned about neighbors.”
Former employee: “I thought it was a hack” (1:36 p.m. update)
Denise Alomari worked at the United Furniture office in Verona for six years in customer service. She felt it was callous and impersonal for the company to fire people over text messages in the middle of the night. She received hers at 10:56 p.m. Monday but didn’t realize it until Tuesday morning. And then she didn’t believe it was real.
“I thought it was a hack, but people started calling and I realized it was real. My heart just dropped,” Alomari said. “It happened as usual. No one said a word. There was no indication of what was going to happen.”
Now she has an office full of personal items that she cannot retrieve because the doors are locked.
Looking back, she said there were rumors the company was in financial trouble. At the October market in High Point, North Carolina, several people asked United CEO Mike Watson about the bankruptcy rumours. He just dismissed the rumors.
“We heard the bills weren’t being paid, but we just thought it was the economy and things would pick up,” Alomari said.
While the bulk of United employees had no idea that the entire workforce would lose their jobs days before Thanksgiving, some senior company officials saw the writing on the wall and are out as long as they could.
“Several VP-level people have left the company over the past few months,” Alomari said.
Ashley Furniture Hosts Career Fair (1:22 p.m. update)
Ashley Furniture took advantage of the sudden surge in people looking for work and set up a recruitment tent in Crosstown on Tuesday.
“We’ve been doing these pop-ups for a few years,” said Diana Ortiz, Ashley’s field recruiting supervisor. “We had a lot of United people stopping by and filling in applications.”
They were looking for employees in all aspects of the business, from the production line to the administrative offices. For some new applicants, Ashley was scheduling interviews for Tuesday afternoon.
“We’ll be back here (Wednesday),” Ortiz said. “Those who pass today are actively trying to solve a problem and are eager to work. They will be good employees. Those who wait until after the holidays don’t have the same motivation.
Local officials hold job fair for Tuesday (11:23 am update)
Hours after news broke that all United Furniture employees were laid off overnight, city, county and local economic officials rushed to help where they could.
Community Development Foundation CEO David Rumbarger said since the organization heard about the mass layoff, it has been working “feverishly” to help the nearly 1,000 affected Lee County residents.
“The timing for this is extremely unfortunate,” he said. “We will do everything to get these people back to work.
To that end, CDF’s Director of Existing Business Development, Maury Giachelli, said the organization will partner with the Three Rivers Planning and Development District and Itawamba Community College to hold a job fair on Tuesday. 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on the ICC Belden campus.
On Tuesday morning, 12 companies agreed to join the show, including Ashley Furniture and Toyota Mississippi. He said he hopes to have 20 employers at the fair.
“We’ve had shutdowns like this in the past and we’ve come out of it stronger,” he said.
Gaichelli noted that he thinks the county has a “great diversity” of furniture and other employers who should be able to pick up laid-off workers. It is this diversity, he says, that gives him hope for the people.
Meanwhile, County Administrator Bill Benson called the mass layoffs a “terrible” situation, noting the Lee County Board of Supervisors would help if they could.
“I know the board is prepared to do everything in its power to help place these people,” Benson said, adding that he wasn’t sure if there were any specific steps the board could take. take.
A former United employee speaks out (11:12 am update)
Jeff Jones, a line supplier for United Furniture for more than 30 years, this morning learned of the email overnight informing him that he had lost his job, along with thousands of other employees.
“I was sound asleep (when it happened) and I was checking my emails early in the morning from a colleague. His message was quite simple. The first was that we were out of work. I found out the email and I read it. We’re just all devastated. We didn’t see it coming,” Jones said.
Jones said the company recently reduced hours, but that was unexpected.
“I’ve been with the business through multiple owners and names. We’ve always bounced back. In the email, they made it clear there was no bounce back from this” , did he declare.
Jones said he had worked there for so long that “there were co-workers who worked there every day who weren’t even there when I started. There were people there who were more like to family and colleagues.”
Despite the bad news, Jones maintains a positive attitude.
“I told my co-worker who informed me that just before we left for the Thanksgiving holiday. Everyone got their Thanksgiving turkeys. I guess that turkey was our severance,” he said. he declares.
Jones said he and other colleagues received lots of well-wishes and support, including people passing on job opportunities for consideration. Right now he was sad to be calm.
“I think it’s the calm before the storm. Right now it feels surreal. We’re going to bounce back and start running,” he said.
Monroe County officials are stepping up to help affected workers (10:09 a.m. update)
UFI was Monroe County’s largest employer, and according to the latest jobs count, about 2,000 employees came from the county. The company had sites in Amory, Nettleton and Wren.
“We are heartbroken and praying for everyone affected. We are working and partnering with our economic development friends at CDF, Three Rivers, WIN Job Center and Accelerate MS to help deploy as many resources and information available on jobs and rapid response,” said said the executive director of the Monroe County Chamber of Commerce, Chelsea. Baulch.
Some 2,700 employees of United Furniture Industries are now unemployed.
According to a memo from United’s board of directors sent at 12:42 a.m. Tuesday, employees were not due to report to work today and the move is likely permanent.
“Due to unforeseen business circumstances, the company has been forced to make the difficult decision to terminate the employment of all of its employees with immediate effect on November 21, 2022, with the exception of truck drivers who are on delivery. Your termination from the company should be permanent and all benefits will terminate immediately without the provision of COBRA.”
Drivers were instructed to immediately return equipment, inventory and delivery documents for deliveries that had been made to the company’s location in Winston-Salem, Verona or Victorville, California.
It’s a stunning fall for a company that had become one of the biggest furniture companies in the country.
United’s roots were planted in 1983 in northern Mississippi with the opening of Comfort Furniture. In 2000, United Furniture was formed with the merger of Comfort Furniture, Parkhill Furniture and United Chair. In December 2008, United Furniture received the exclusive license agreement as an American manufacturer from Simmons Upholstery. In August 2015, Simmons Case Goods was added to the United Furniture product lines. This allowed United to include matching upholstery and cases under the Simmons brand.
United bought the Lane brand in 2017 from Heritage Home Group LLC for an undisclosed amount. Lane, which was founded in 1912 in Virginia and merged with Tupelo-based Action Industries in 1972, was once one of the largest employers in northeast Mississippi. Lane was part of Furniture Brand International, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2013. Most of Furniture Brands assets were purchased by KPS Capital Partners for $280 million, and subsequently, Heritage Home Group was formed.
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