Weyerhaeuser employees talk 'stimulus' with lawmaker

PINE HILL, Ala. (WSFA) -- "No one really knows what tomorrow's going to bring," explained Dereck Autry, one of the 327 people laid off from Pine Hill's Weyerhaeuser plant, a powerhouse for business in Wilcox County.

"To be honest, I don't know [where to go from here].  There's been a lot of scenario playing in my mind," he explained.

Autry and other displaced workers met with Congressman Artur Davis, discussing assistance within the new economic recovery package--including extending health benefits until next year while covering 65% of the bill.

"Some of them are going to find work.  It's just not going to be work as good as Weyerhaeuser.  And they're going to find work, but it won't be work with health insurance," Davis said to a group of Wilcox County leaders Monday afternoon in Camden.

The county's unemployment rate makes the loss more painful.  At 15%, it's the highest in the state and it's rising.

"We're hoping we can make it through this struggling economy that we have. This is just an additional blow," said Harry Mason, Pine Hill's mayor.

Weyerhaeuser's shutdown is already making waves in Wilcox County.  Though some employees say they appreciate the extended unemployment benefits and opportunities for education, others say--with a lack of available jobs--their options are running out.

"If it comes to where I have to be out of work, then I'll be looking at leaving home.  I'll be looking to go where the work is at and where I can go to work," said one laid off worker.

"Everybody's reeling from the whole thing just happening. Now, we're trying to pick up the pieces and move on," Autry explained.