April 17, 2000
This story was written by Ron Trudell, from Windsor, Ontario. Ron is 43 years old, recently separated with two boys, Mike. 24 and Steve, 14. He is back at school now because of a job loss that happened last July. Ron is enrolled in the LBS/ Adult Education Program at St. Clair College in Windsor.
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My name is Ron Trudell and I am 43 years old, recently separated with two boys, Mike, 24 and Steve, 14. I am back at school now because of a job loss that happened last July.
I left school when I was 19 years old, and entered the work force with a dream of making my own money. Before getting a job at Huron Steel in 1983 I had several other jobs. Two of these jobs were in other stamping plants and I also worked for a plastic coating company for two years. When I was hired at Huron Steel they also had two other plants, Ojibway and Mohawk that were very close by and all three plants together were called the Indian Corporation. Huron would blank or cut out the auto body parts from coils of steel and send them to Mohawk to be formed and then to Ojibway to be welded. The first five or six years at Huron the work were very hard and heavy but the pay was OK so I stuck it out. While I was there I got involved with the union and became a committeeman. I wanted to help people with some of the problems that I had had when I started. After a while we began hearing rumors that all three companies were in receivership. As more time passed those rumors became a reality and we were sold to a US buyer who did not like unions. After a little more time passed a notice came on the board that the Ojibway welding facility was closing and moving those workers to Mohawk.
I was a little concerned because I had bought a house and a car and was trying to raise my boys. My job as a committeeman became very stressful. People started thinking we might be next and trying to answer questions that people have when you dont have an answer is tough.
In July of 1999 the hammer came down on us. We were closing and being sent to Mohawk. It was final. After sixteen years of working at Huron it was gone. How would we deal with the rate of pay over there? We had been making $22.00 per hour but Mohawk was paying considerably less. Would our seniority carry over to the other plant? These were only two of the hundreds of questions on our minds
After all of the problems that the three plant committees worked out during the transfer we settled in at Mohawk in October of 1997. A little over a year and a half passed and then there was another announcement that Mohawk was closing due to bankruptcy.
How could three companies with sales of fifty million dollars combined be closing? Finally the doors did close on us in July of 1999. Coverage of the closure by the Windsor Star was extensive. Much of that coverage was focussed on the anger and rage of the employees. This anger erupted when the plant manager tried to forcefully eject one of the workers out the big door as it was coming down. It hit him; the police were called to the scene and it was getting crazy. The CAW was hopeful of finding a buyer for the plant but time ran out. We did not receive a penny of severance pay and to this day are still fighting for our pension money.
Due to a job related injury I had spent the previous two years on modified work. With the sudden conclusion of my job I was offered the opportunity, through compensation, to be retrained for a parts clerks job. The pay scale for the job they suggested was far less than what I was previously earning. What choice did I have? The only income immediately available to me was from the Worker Safety Insurance Board.
I am capable of working like I have done for twenty years, at a job that will allow me to continue in the lifestyle I worked so hard to create. The future looks so-so for me right now. I just take one day at a time.
It seems pretty bizarre that I was able to help people in our plant learn how to load 10,000 pound coils of steel and run million dollar machines and now have to come back to school to learn the basic skills that I have forgotten just to survive.
I can remember when I was working all the time, I used to dream that someday I would retire with a pension and take life a little more slowly. Maybe I could buy a little cottage and a boat. Now Im starting to think that it was just that, a dream.
It doesnt seem fair that after all of those years I have to start over again, but then nobody said that life is fair.
I am going to ask you to walk a mile in my shoes. Imagine how your life and your situation would be if this had happened to you. Are you prepared for this type of situation?