Layoff of 371 depot employees commences today
by Patrick McCreless
pmccreless@annistonstar.com
Mar 30, 2013 | 15299 views |  0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Anniston resident Corma Bailey washes dishes and spruces up in her kitchen at home. Bailey is one of 371 depot workers that were laid off this week. (Anniston Star photo by Trent Penny)
Anniston resident Corma Bailey washes dishes and spruces up in her kitchen at home. Bailey is one of 371 depot workers that were laid off this week. (Anniston Star photo by Trent Penny)
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Monday morning, Corma Bailey’s first stop will be at the unemployment office.

The next visit will be to the bank to possibly lower her mortgage payments. Job searches will take up the remainder of the west Anniston resident’s day.

“On Monday morning, I’ll be going hot and heavy job searching ... I’ve got to pay this mortgage,” Bailey said while sitting on the couch in her two-story home.

For the last six years, Bailey, 41, worked various jobs as a temporary employee at the Anniston Army Depot, most recently as a tools and parts attendant.

Not anymore.

Today, the contracts of all the depot’s 371 temporary employees expire, forcing them to find new jobs. The Department of Defense did not extend the contracts past March 30 due to budget cuts directly related to the drawdowns of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

The depot still has more than 3,000 permanent civilian employees, many of whom could face furloughs of up to 14 days this year due to federal budget cuts known as sequestration.

Bailey, whose husband is a veteran and is currently on unemployment after he was laid off from the depot last year, said the entire situation is upsetting.

“I knew this was going to come at some time because the war was ending, but they could have done a better job at notifying us,” Bailey said with frustration in her face.

Bailey said she and her fellow workers had been in a state of limbo, only receiving official notification a couple of weeks ago that their contracts were truly expiring March 30. As such, Bailey had not taken the time to really search for a new job.

Trent Hunter, 46, of Talladega, said he was also upset about the way he was notified about the layoffs. Hunter previously worked nine years as an inspector and on repair at the depot.

“The things about the contracts expiring at the end of March came up in February, but there was nothing in writing,” Hunter said. “And it was nothing we did ... they just took the jobs from us.”

Hunter, who has an unemployed wife to support, said he has had little time to search for a new job and is not confident he’ll find one anytime soon.

“Nobody is going to look to hire anyone close to 50,” he said.

Bailey said her situation is not quite as dire as some of her former fellow co-workers, noting that her children are already grown and on their own.

“And we didn’t go out and buy houses and any cars when we started at the depot,” Bailey said. “So we didn’t get into debt like many others did.”

In a statement emailed to The Star on Friday, Col. Brent Bolander, depot commander, wrote that there was nothing he could say or do to lessen the pain for depot workers losing their jobs today. However, Bolander wrote, he personally thanked every temporary depot worker at a town hall meeting two weeks ago.

“Whether they were employed on the installation for one year or 10, they provided vital support for our warfighters,” Bolander wrote. “As a soldier, I have used much of the equipment overhauled or repaired by the workforce here ... so I speak for the warfighters when I say that I appreciate their dedication and their service to our nation.”

U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Saks, who is chairman of the strategic forces subcommittee on the Armed Services Committee, wrote in a Friday email to The Star about his appreciation of the depot workers and their service.

“The entire depot workforce has performed a tremendous service to the warfighter and our nation throughout the war effort,” Rogers wrote. “Our community has been fighting tirelessly to protect and strengthen the depot and all its workers and will continue to do so as our nation evolves its national defense strategy.”

Nathan Hill, military liaison for the Calhoun County Chamber of Commerce, said he and the chamber were also appreciative of the depot workers’ efforts.

“We all regret their tenure at the depot has come to an end,” Hill said. “They were all great employees and contributed greatly to the success of our warfighters.”

Nathan said Operation First Rate, a federally-funded program run by the chamber to help depot and other local federal employees find new work after being laid off, is still available to assist the temporary employees.

Bailey said plans to apply for a variety of jobs and is not afraid to leave the city she has lived in since she was in second grade.

“I can move anywhere in the United States,” she said. “I’ve just got to pay my bills.”

Staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star.

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