Pilgrim’s Pride is closing its Oneta St. chicken processing plant today, and about a hundreds Athens-area workers will be laid-off.According to an Athens Banner-Herald report, a company spokesman said some of those workers will find jobs at the firm’s sister plant in town, and others may secure positions in plants in Commerce, Elberton and Gainesville.
But many are unlikely to find new work anytime soon, and can now be counted among the latest causalities of the current recession.
I recently talked briefly to two now laid-off Pilgrim’s Pride employees, Pauline Scott and Chakisha Gresham, both of Athens, Ga. I asked them about their plans going forward and about how they and their fellow former employees, their neighbors and families are coping with the recession.
Here’s what they said:
Pauline Scott: I’ve noticed that a lot of people have cut back a lot of activities from the things that they used to do. Now, you see more of the kids out at Burger King playing and stuff. It used to be not as many. But I guess due to the fact the way the economy is, people can’t afford to take their kids to movies and different things like that, so they’re finding other activities like hanging out at Burger King.
And, me personally, I have cut back on everything.
I don’t go out to eat that much. If I do I’m eating off the 99-cent menu. When I go out, like if I leave home to go get gas or whatever, I do all my errands while I’m out. I do not go back and forth. I just do everything once I’m out.
My biggest concern is—I’m 56 years old—I’m more concerned about my health care insurance. And a lot of people on the job are more concerned about their mortgages because they have 700-800 dollar mortgages, and they’re more concerned about those.
Me and Chakisha are blessed because we got in the program in with Habitat [Athens Area Habitat for Humanity], and our mortgage is more affordable. I’m not saying there’s no stress with the mortgage, but it’s more affordable. The people at Habitat agreed to try to work with us to keep it affordable—and that lifts a lot of pressure off.
Chakisha Gresham: After Friday, I’m going to try to look forward and find me a better job or even go back to school. What I’m going to do is basically try to find something. But it’s going to be kind of hard, because people aren’t hiring right now. I want to try to go and get a job at the university, but right now they have a freeze on hiring. So, I guess I don’t know what I’m going to do really. But I’m going to keep trying and trying because hopefully something will come up.
What’s hurting people the most is not knowing which way you’re going to go after you’re laid-off. You’re just worrying about how you’re going to pay your bills and stuff.
Pauline Scott: What’s hurting the people the most is…when you go to the grocery store everything is so expensive. When you’re not making much money the cost of living is really, really expensive. And, you know, like I said people are cutting back in every way possible to try to make ends meet. Most of the people I’ve talked say, they say their concern was about paying their mortgage and losing their health care insurance—that’s the basic problem.
This interview was conducted over the phone on Sunday, Oct. 4. The conversation has been condensed and lightly edited to improve readability.