HENDERSON, N.C. — The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the American Trade Agreement, which sent a lot of jobs to Asia, are hitting Henderson with a one-two punch.
In April, Americal, a hosiery company famous for its socks, will give local workers the boot. Ninety-five employees will lose their jobs, including Mike Catlett, who has been collecting paychecks with the company for 32 years.
"It will be tough and it will be hard to learn something new, but you know us older folks will have to work at it harder," he said.
"The majority is going offshore to Korea and China," said Vanessa Alvarado, of Americal.
The Americal plant has been dying a slow death. Three hundred workers have lost jobs over the past year. The latest laid-off workers will get extended benefits because their jobs are going overseas.
"There are a number of things that employees will qualify for. It's just not a job," said Sara Wester, of the state's Employment Security Commission.
Americal will not completely close its Henderson operation. The distribution end of the business stays, but its manufacturing process is going overseas.
"You're talking about people in China that get paid $30 a month to do the same thing that our employees are doing here," Alvarado said.
"It's tough to swallow when you find out it's you," Catlett said.
Catlett said the severance benefits will not replace the jobs the government gave away.
Overall, textile layoffs in Henderson have given Vance County the highest unemployment rate in the state at nearly 13 percent.