Whirlpool announces new wave of layoffs, plans to close Fort Smith, AR plant
Back in 2010, we covered the closure of a Whirlpool plant in Evansville, Indiana that left 1,100 workers unemployed and a community in shock. The company’s decision to shutter the factory and shift production to Mexico led to a public outcry from the citizens of Evansville who staged a rally to protest the plant closure.
Unfortunately, despite heavy opposition from the community that housed the factory for over 50 years, Whirlpool moved forward with the closure, leaving Evansville reeling from the loss of its main source of industry.
And today we have more bad news to share from Whirlpool: The company recently announced that it will be reducing its workforce by more than 5,000 in North America and Europe, and plans to close a refrigeration plant in Fort Smith, Arkansas.
Like Evansville, Fort Smith’s identity is deeply enmeshed with the plant, which has thrived in the community for 50 years and employs over a thousand workers. Sandy Sanders, Mayor of Fort Smith and former Whirlpool employee, spoke with NPR about the impending closure. According to Sanders, whose career at the Whirlpool plant spanned three decades, the factory was a great place to work and an asset to the community:
“This is an excellent plant. And having worked there, I know the quality here has always been excellent. And the people working here, from line operators to plant management, have done everything feasible to enable the plant to continue to operate.”
And as for the thousand displaced workers, Sanders hopes that they will be able to find new employment opportunities in the community:
“We've got the rest of this year until the middle of next year to help with retraining to help people find other jobs. You know, we've got about 250,000 people in this area as our labor pool… So we're going to work at it, and we're going to sort those jobs, somewhere, somehow.”
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