McClain lays off all hourly workers

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 9, 2004

More than 40 employees at a Demopolis industry were notified Thursday that today will be their last day of work.

McClain EZ Pack, which has battled through two tumultuous years of layoffs and rehires, laid off all hourly employees &045;&045; 44 of them to be exact &045;&045; because of a slumping economy and low sales volumes.

McClain, which manufactures waste containers and compactors and bought the business from Waste Management in 1996, laid off about 30 employees last year and never recovered from the lack of sales orders.

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Speculation was that McClain would completely close its doors with the announcement Thursday morning. However, Ford said that isn’t the case, yet. Some staff members &045;&045; though very few &045;&045; will remain at the Demopolis industry for now.

According to a company release, the entire McClain Company, based in Sterling Heights, Mich., has been put on the market for sale. Ken McClain, spokesman at the corporate office, was not available for comment on Thursday. A receptionist said she did not know about a pending sale of the entire company.

McClain has manufacturing centers in Winesburg, Ohio, Oklahoma City and Galion, Ohio, along with the Demopolis and Sterling Heights locations.

The implication that employees have been laid off &045;&045; as opposed to the entire business being closed &045;&045; offers a small ray of hope that operations may resume in Demopolis. At the same time, Ford said feelers have been sent out to prospective buyers.

Emory Barnette, spokesman for the PACE union that represents McClain employees, said he was convinced &045;&045; after looking at financial statements &045;&045; that economic conditions were the reason for the decision.

After the announcement Thursday, the state sent a rapid response team to Demopolis in order to provide assistance to the laid-off workers.

Though the hourly workers &045;&045; most of whom are welders &045;&045; are not employed with McClain anymore, Barnette said they all are still in good standing with the union.

While employees and local officials at McClain wait for the economy to re-energize in Alabama, Demopolis leaders have already begun the process of finding new jobs for the area.

Jay Shows, executive director of the Industrial Development Board, said he will stay in contact with McClain’s corporate office and assist in searching for a new tenant of the building, which is located at the Airport Industrial Park off U.S. Highway 80 West.

Shows, who has already made contacts with state agencies that could help find a new industry for the McClain site, said his ability to recruit is somewhat hamstrung by the decision McClain makes.

Ford said it was too soon to tell whether or not his company will sell the building and 30 accompanying acres. McClain also is equipped with 100 welding stations and a paint shop.

Mayor Austin Caldwell, who found out about McClain’s decision on Monday, said Demopolis and Marengo County will suffer from the cuts.