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Rejection Of Plant Leaving Is Painful

This article first appeared in issue 10, and was written by Linda Waggener.

The reason OshKosh is leaving is the reason OshKosh came. Profit. Jobs at a lesser rate of pay. Reduced benefits expectations. Lower municipal tax burdens.

Rejection hurts so badly that it's easy to fall into the trap of anger at OshKosh, anger at NAFTA-to blame the world and the times for what is becoming a serious loss to some 400 Adair County families and the business community their payroll dollars have supported.

It's just business

It's just everyday, ordinary business, that is taking the factory south.

When OshKosh came to Columbia they were moving toward increasing profits to keep the company strong. By simply relocating they could take advantage of cheap labor in rural Kentucky and Tennessee where little towns would give excellent tax benefits in exchange for jobs-the company was given a royal welcome.

It wasn't a consideration that they probably took jobs from women and men up north in order to move here. We simply rejoiced in our good fortune. Jobs. Income. Overall economic health.

Suddenly women had spending money

When OshKosh came south it not only brought jobs, but jobs women were already good at. Country girls in those days were taught to sew out of necessity, women represented a well-trained work force.

Sue Stivers remembers the impact. Thinking on early days as Adair County Extension Agent, Sue says, "For the first time ever, Adair county women had personal, spendable income. It changed lives and improved the economy each time a woman deposited her factory pay check into one of the banks on the square and then went on to buy groceries, clothes for their husbands, curtains for the house, or college for their children. OshKosh has been very good for this community."

It had a positive impact on the lives of nearly everyone in the region.

I remember it. As editor of the weekly newspaper in Celina, Tennessee I enjoyed the additional responsibilities of selling advertising, running the addressograph machine, putting subscribers onto metal plate labels and doing the bookkeeping after an issue was finally printed and delivered the post office dock. If the editor hadn't also had to sell the advertising, I'd never have met the manager of OshKosh in Celina. I can still see his smiling face when he'd say he figured it would be a good thing for the plant to buy a sponsorship ad on a page featuring the Boy Scouts.

They impacted businesses in a good way too

To the newspaper, OshKosh was a dependable source of advertising income to help pay for production. The presence of OshKosh meant that every business in the community grew stronger every day the company remained healthy.

I didn't know it at the time, but the recession of '79 would knock me out of the editing business for many years and teach me first hand about the grief one feels over the loss of a work family, at being displaced from a comfortable income-earning routine.

I can understand how it feels to lose a career.

Recession of '79 enabled me to understand the pain of rejection

But no amount of understanding will ease the pain of suddenly losing a work-family, of not hearing the click of the time clock, of missing the feel of the equipment vibrating through one's hands, nor replace the feeling of satisfaction upon receiving a days pay for a days work.

No amount of unemployment will ease the fear that comes from being displaced from a comfortable everyday world and thrust into the unknown and unfamiliar.

Does Adair County have the support services to help its people get through this?

This story was posted on 1996-12-14 12:01:01
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