Lives Unravel After Plant Closing At Westminster Knit

84 Jobs Disappeared After 44 Years Of Operation For Sewing Factory

May 08, 1991|By Kerry O'Rourke | Kerry O'Rourke,Staff writer

WESTMINSTER — Brenda A. Clapsaddle still gets teary-eyed sometimes when she talks about her friends at the Westminster Knit Corp.

It's been nearly three months since the plant closed, and she has another job now, but the people she worked with there for 21 years had become close friends.

Some of them are having a hard time making ends meet since they lost their jobs at the sewing factory.

The Taneytown resident and her husband are doing OK. They don't have children and were able to pay the bills on his salary as an emergency operations supervisor, she said.

Last month, she started a part-time job making pizzas in the

deli at the new Giant Food store in Westminster.

But with the county's unemployment rate at 6.6 percent for March, some others haven't been as fortunate finding work.

Westminster Knit closed Feb. 12, laying off 84 employees, most of whom were women. The plant, ownedby United Merchants and Manufacturers Inc. in New York, closed because it didn't have enough orders, the former plant manager said. It had operated for 44 years.

When the plant closed, employees were making 1,000 dresses -- "expensive dresses" -- a week for a division of Leslie Fay, a women's clothing line, said Norton Geier of Westminster, who retired.

The U.S. Department of Labor announced Monday the jobs had been lost because of foreign competition, making the former employees eligible for more unemployment benefits.

The workers areeligible for Trade Adjustment Assistance, which means they may receive twice as many weeks of unemployment benefits as long as they participate in a training program.

Theodora Stephen, manager of the state Department of Economic and Employment Development office in Westminster, said her agency will administer the additional benefits, whichbegin after the original 26 weeks of unemployment benefits are exhausted.

Laurie Millender of Manchester worked in the office at Westminster Knit for 11 years. She said she's applied for "a lot" of jobs and has had some interviews, but hasn't found work yet.

Unemployment has given her the chance to stay home with her two children, ages 1 and 3, but the family needs her income.

"I'm having a great timebeing home," Millender said. "I've never had the opportunity. But I have to work so we can eat."

Before Westminster Knit closed, counselors from DEED and the county's Job Training Partnership Act Office visited the plant to tell employees what services and retraining helpwere available, said Sandi Myers of the JTPA.

Thirty-seven employees attended an orientation session Feb. 5 about job search assistance, she said. Twenty-nine then attended a seven-day workshop on how todeal with losing a job and how to find a new one, she said.

Ten of these employees have enrolled in classes at Carroll Community College; most are learning clerical skills, Myers said. One woman is studying for her high-school equivalency diploma and one is working to become a certified day-care provider, she said.

Seven former employees have told the job training office they found new jobs in Westminster, Myers said. Four took jobs at Easy Letter Quik Stik Co.; one wentto English American Tailoring Co.; one works at Admiral Cleaners, and Clapsaddle is at Giant.

The Westminster Knit building, at 535 Old Westminster Pike, is for sale or lease. Walter L. Patton, of KLNB Realtors in Baltimore, said he has shown the building to six or seven potential buyers.

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