Local News

Smithfield Tobacco Company Lays Off Hundreds

Posted May 6, 1999 7:00 a.m. EDT

— Hundreds of people who depend on the golden leaf for a paycheck went home Friday night with pink slips.

The K.R. Edwards processing company in Smithfield is closing its doors after nearly 40 years. The company processes tobacco leaves for cigarette makers.

As many as 500 part-time, seasonal employees are being laid off. Many had no idea their jobs were in danger.

"They didn't give us no warning, no signs, no nothing," says former employee Helen Ricks. "All they said is 'We'll call you back when we need you.' We didn't know nothing, we were in the dark about everything."

Edwards' parent company will move some year-round employees to a sister plant in Rocky Mount.

Negotiations are underway to keep part of the Smithfield facility open.