Local News

Former Textile Worker Finds New Path Following Layoff

Posted November 7, 2003 10:49 a.m. EST

— Since losing her job in July, WRAL has tracked the career path of Susie Bailey. Like hundreds of other workers in Vance County, she was laid off from her textile job.

Bailey has since learned when one door closes, another door opens. She is traveling a new path after 31 years of standing still.

"Like I say, I know I just have to continue to move on," she said.

Bailey was an employee at the Harriet and Henderson Yarns plant, spinning dreams of one day retiring comfortably. In July, her hopes unraveled when the plant closed.

"There's no turning back. I just wish I had moved on years ago," she said.

It could be said that Bailey had two strikes against her -- working in textiles and working in Vance County. Over 20 months, Harriet and Henderson closed four plants and laid off about 600 workers. That touched off slowdowns at other companies in the county.

Vance County's unemployment rate stands at 13 percent -- more than double the state average and the highest anywhere in the country, according to the North Carolina Employment Security Commission.

So it seems a minor miracle that Bailey, at age 49, has found a new career working with the mentally retarded. She makes about 20 percent less than she did at her textile job and realizes she will have to more for many more years.

Still, she is happy.

"I know I'm blessed every day, so I have nothing to really complain about," Bailey said. "I feel like there's always something you can do."

There is a lesson in Bailey's story, one that has taken her 31 years and sometimes 80-hour weeks to learn.

"I guess part of the lesson is don't wait," she said. "You never know what tomorrow's going to bring."

The layoff at the textile plant was especially hard on Bailey and other workers, because they received none of their retirement savings. The company filed for bankruptcy, and those benefits are tied up in court.