Ex-MasterBrand Cabinets employees attend state's emergency meetings

Ex-MasterBrand Cabinets employees attend state's emergency meetings
Former employees of the now-closed MasterBrand Cabinets plant in Auburn attend an emergency meeting held by the Alabama Dept. of Commerce.

AUBURN, AL (WSFA) - Still reeling from their unexpected layoff, former employees of the MasterBrand Cabinets plant in Auburn met Monday with the Alabama Department of Commerce's Rapid Response Team in an emergency meeting.

MasterBrand let go 445 employees a week ago due to what it said were changing market conditions.

Around 40 or so former employees took part in the meeting at the Hotel at Auburn University where they got information about upcoming job fairs, how to apply for jobless benefits, employment training and what NOT to do with their 401K plans.

"It's up to the employee to make the effort to go out to our local career centers," said Rapid Response Team Coordinator Jessica Dent.

Anita Pinnock started her job with MasterBrand on the day it opened the plant in 1999. She says she's still shocked, a little hurt, but hopes she'll be able to land something in the near future.

"I feel good. I prayed. My pastor came and prayed with me and my church, they were all real supportive yesterday," she said. "My church family and my family is amazing. They check on me every day, all day to make sure I'm in the right frame of mind."

The Rapid Response Team says it is planning another meeting for Monday afternoon and two more Tuesday and believes there will be a much bigger turnout Tuesday once word gets out about the emergency meetings.

While the emergency meeting was going, some were still bothered by the fact MasterBrand Cabinets failed to give employees and the city of Auburn a 60-day notice, which is a federal law. Officials with MasterBrand say they faxed and mailed a notice to the Alabama Department of Commerce on Thursday.

Dent said MasterBrand is paying the laid-off employees' severance pay, which is enough to meet the requirements of the WARN notice, making the 60-day notice a moot point.

After the meeting, Anita Pinnock felt the meeting was worth her time.

"It'll be okay because I don't mind working," Pinnock said.

In addition to the meetings, other companies are looking to scoop up some of the workers. The day after the plant closure, an Alabama company called Wellborn Cabinets said it was looking to hire some of those affected to work at their Ashland plant.

Tru Cabinetry is also looking to hire former MasterBrand employees. The company will be at a job fair at Auburn Junior High School Tuesday.

After MasterBrand closed its doors, the City of Auburn's Workforce Development Division immediately began reaching out to area industries to help find positions for the more than 400 individuals displaced by the closure.

"It's great to see the entire community coming together in this critical time for those who lost their jobs this week," said Cary Cox, the City of Auburn's workforce development director. "We have had great interest from local businesses and industries as well as companies outside of our region, and we're anticipating an excellent turnout for this event."

Those planning to attend the job fair should be prepared to fill out applications and interview for available positions. Companies interested in participating in the job fair should contact the City of Auburn's Workforce Development Division at (334) 501-7300 or webecondev@auburnalabama.org.

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