JEFFERSONVILLE — To mark the beginning of the new year, hundreds of families in Jeffersonville learned that their lives would be altered forever.
All 257 employees of Legacy Supply Chain Services — located at 1251 Port Road — learned on Jan. 8 that they would soon be out of a job.
Scores of those workers gathered in support of one another on Tuesday afternoon, lining the roadside in front of Legacy's property to protest the mass layoff.
Jammie Willen, president of International Union of Electronic, Electrical, Salaried, Machine and Furniture Workers Communications Workers of America (IUE-CWA) Local 84807 and a 22-year employee of Legacy, said the news has been "devastating" to him and his colleagues.
“It means the loss of our wages, our healthcare benefits and vacation time that we’ve accrued over the years — some for decades," he said. "It means not being able to care for our family members properly. It’s just devastating what they’ve done to us. They’ve just tossed aside for corporate greed and profit.”
A Jan. 6 letter sent to the Indiana Department of Workforce Developed revealed that Tri-Starr Management Services, Inc., planned to cease operations at the facility, with the layoffs taking place over a two-week period starting March 8.
No reason for the shutdown was given, but the letter noted that the move was "expected to be permanent."
Willen, however, said the logistics center isn't actually closing up shop. Instead, Haier — the corporation under which the location operates — is only transitioning to a new logistics subcontractor, Dart Warehouse Corporation.
Though the employees are being fired, they have been told by Dart that they can reapply, though the nature of that employment would be entirely different, as it would be facilitated through a temp agency.
"They’re refusing to hire us directly on," Willen said. "There’s no guarantee that we’ll be hired, and there’s no guarantee of retaining our current wage statuses, seniority or benefits. The facility is not being shut down. They will continue to operate here. It’s very profitable, if I might add."
The loss of benefits and a wage to which they've become accustomed is cause for concern for everybody involved.
Kevin Dukett, who has been employed at Legacy for two years, said he and his coworkers have built their lives around what they've earned at the facility. They count on that money to continue living day-to-day as they have up until the warn notice was issued.
For Dukett, it isn't just about the current status of his life. He has bigger plans for the future, which makes the unexpected layoff all the more troublesome for him.
“I’m in the end stages of being registered as a foster parent," he said. "Not knowing whether or not I’m going to have a job that makes enough to support myself, let alone a child in this community, it’s just heartbreaking. I strongly encourage Haier and Dart to just come to the table, to just hear us out."
Fellow 15-year employee Jackie Cheathem was thrilled to see so many people show up for the rally. The labor union, she added, isn't just important for the current bind Legacy employees find themselves in, but for all the workers that come after, too.
“We’re not standing still, we’re on the move," she said. "That’s just a very good thing, because we’ve got to think about the people who are coming behind us who need jobs. They need support."
Among those in attendance was at-large Jeffersonville City Council member Ron Ellis. Describing himself as a "union man," Ellis expressed displeasure with the decision to clean house at Legacy.
“I will support the union," Ellis said. "I don’t think it’s right. Basically, Jeffersonville supported this company coming here, and now they’re going to do away with the jobs.”
IUE-CWA rep Jerry Carney said that he hopes to have a meeting with Dart. Since Dart is simply a subcontractor with Haier, however, he believes the approval of the meeting would have to come from the top down, since, "Dart's not going to do anything unless Haier tells them to do it."
Willen is hopeful, though, adding that if Dart is willing to meet with his team, he's willing to meet with them.
"They need to do the right thing and come to the table with IUE-CWA Local 84807 and negotiate a fair and just contract for both Dart and the members of our local," he said. "We’re fair people.”