Displaced Verso workers forced to move on

What happens to a company town when the company leaves town? Sometimes the workers leave too.

After announcing they were idling in November, the Verso paper mill laid off more than 300 workers. Many of those workers hoped and believed the mill would reopen, but Verso announced this week the mill will close in June.

Workers say they are faced with leaving the jobs some of them had for decades.

The Local 680 Union Hall is quieter. With the mill closing, Union President Eddie Summers knows soon, it’ll be empty. He says many people expected the mill to close after a certain point.

Summers was laid off in November. He says he hoped the mill would reopen, but now he has to move on and apply for school and other jobs.

“It’s given people the urge to do something with their lives, go where they need to go. It’s sad really," Summers says. 

Until he finds a new job, Summers says he’s full time as union president. The union still helps members sort out issues with the mill: issues they used to work out on the floor or at meetings. But now, Summers says he’s figuring those issues out while taking phone interviews.

“Nothing’s went off without a hitch. Everything’s been jumbled ever since November," he says. 

He says it’s difficult, but he wouldn’t want anyone else to shoulder the burden. “They put enough faith in me to elect me to be president, but I didn’t see this coming," he says.

As for the future of this union hall, international will look over the hall and dismiss union leaders from their responsibilities.

Troy Courtney with Career Solutions Community since the closure, more Verso workers are getting help for their future and any worker is welcome at any time.

"It’s been a major change in their life and we’re going to help them with that," Courtney says.

But Summers knows there’s not a lot of time until he closes this union hall for the last time.

The union’s last meeting will be in June, the same month the mill’s scheduled to close.           

Summers said those workers laid off in November will receive the last half of their severance packages in May. He said, because Verso was also going through bankruptcy, it took a while for the workers to receive their new insurance policies and severance packages.

Verso workers can contact the Kentucky Career Center or the Career Solutions Community at West Kentucky Community and Technical Center.
For more of our coverage of the closure, click here, here, and here.

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