TUPELO, Miss. (WCBI) – More than 2,500 people across northeast Mississippi woke up Monday to find out they are out of a job.
United Furniture Industries made the announcement through a memo.
For months now, sources in the furniture industry have been talking about warning signs from United Furniture Industries, which owns Lane Furniture. According to sources, the company was facing mounting debt.
Payments were late if they were made at all to contractors, and workers on the lines often ran out of basic parts, such as nuts and bolts.
Now, those workers are out of jobs days before Thanksgiving – and wondering what the future holds.
TJ Martin and several former Lane employees were at the WIN Job Center early Tuesday right across the street from the Lane furniture factory, which had “we are hiring ” signs out front.
As these workers were filling out paperwork for unemployment benefits, trucks coming to pick up furniture were being turned away at the gate. Martin said he was notified late Monday night that he no longer had a job.
“This has been a drastic shock to every one of us,” Martin said.
The message from United Furniture Industries was from the board of directors and read, in part, “we regret to inform you that due to unforeseen business circumstances the company has been forced to make the difficult decision to terminate the employment of all its employees, effective immediately on November 21, 2022.”.
Over-the-road drivers out on delivery were told to not complete deliveries and to return to their home base.
We are told gas cards for those drivers still out on the road are valid until they get home. All benefits were also terminated immediately.
Martin and his former co-workers said the news is especially tough, the week of Thanksgiving, and barely one month until Christmas.
“That puts a damper on everybody’s spirits, especially when you’re told to be ready to hit it hard Monday. Every one of us is dedicated to the company. We consider each other to be family members,” Martin said.
That is especially true for Jeff Jones, who worked with Lane Furniture for 30 years. Jones is also known for his Facebook page, Eating Out With Jeff Jones, where he reviews area restaurants. Jones said the sudden layoffs are tough on everyone.
“When I’m out of a day job, I’m out of insurance, been with the company for 30 years, 10 years from retirement. I’m looking to make a change, you can look at this as devastating news or an opportunity. I’m sure a lot of people will look at this as an opportunity to reinvent themselves,” Jones said.
In the meantime, Jeff Jones, TJ Martin, and thousands of other former employees are wondering if there will be any severance pay, and many still have personal items in the plants they need to get.
The former workers told WCBI News they all knew the company was in financial trouble, but the abrupt layoffs were unexpected.
We are also told the governor’s office is working to find assistance for the former workers.
We have learned that employees will be allowed to get their personal belongings when property managers have devised a “safe and orderly process” for that to happen.
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