VANCE COUNTY, N.C. — Since 1989, officials say more than 100,000 people across North Carolina joined the unemployment lines because of textile and apparel closings. The hammer recently fell on Vance County, where laid-off textile workers are desperate for new jobs and many have turned to the classroom for help.
Many of the former workers at Harriet & Henderson are now training for job interviews. At one point, the textile plant employed about 1,500 people at its four plants in Vance County, but one-by-one, the plants closed. Since January, 25 textile plants have closed in the state and officials say nearly 10,000 workers laid off.
July 13 was Jack Robertson's 33rd anniversary with Harriet & Henderson. The very next day, the company let him go.
"If I could have foreseen the future, I would have done some things different," he said.
Susan Bailey was 18 when she went to work for the plant. She said she had often put in 70 to 80 hours a week.
"All these years, I struggled there for nothing," she said. "I try not to just let it sit on my mind because I think I can move forward doing something else."
The workers in Vance County received no severance. Many have almost 100 hours of vacation pay that is due, but there is no word on when they will get it because the issue is being discussed in bankruptcy court.