I lost my job a year ago on March 7th.
This place had been in operation since the early 1960's. It was a Georgia Pacific particleboard plant with just under 300 hourly and salary workers. This place was basicly one of the few places in northern Michigan where you could make a good living without having gone to college. After a year and a half of applying every month, I finally got hired there in 2000 just before my 21st birthday. This was a place I fully intended on retiring from. I had a good position as a Quality Control Technician. I was on the plant safety committee, accident investigation committee. I was a member of the plant's fire brigade, confined space rescue team, and medical first responder team. They sent me to school to be a first aid/cpr instructor and a Powered Industrial Truck Instructor too. I was the Cheif Steward for our Union. I think I spent more time in meetings than actually working
In 2002 we bought our first house. Not a mansion by any means, but a nice tri-level with a nice yard, that backed up to state land. We had descent cars. Nice neighbors. 2 beautiful kids. In short, life was good.
Then last year on a Sunday night I get a call from the plant's HR Manager. The company wants to have a meeting with the Union at 7am the next morning, and they aren't saying what it's about. I wake up the next morning and go in to find out the plant was being shut down.
Just like that. All of the sudden you've got just under 300 people in a small rural area looking for a job. The average paying job up there was about $7 an hour, mostly tourism related stuff. The hourly people such as myself at the plant made anywhere between $30,000 and $70,000 a year. Salary people made between $40,000 and $125,000 per year. Everyone became eligible for assistance from the US government due to the fact that we were able to prove that competition with chinese particleboard plants was the main factor for the plant closing. But that didn't help many of us out much.
I could go on and on, but to make a long story short, almost all of those guys are still out of work. I'd probably be too if I would have stayed in Michigan
The unemployment checks I was recieveing weren't nearly enough to cover the lifestyle I was living so before we knew it we had credit card companies calling daily, our mortgage got behind, etc. We ended up filing for bankruptcy.
My wife's sister lived in the Albany, New York area and said her husband could get me a job where he worked. So we drove out to New York last July and although that offer fell through, I found work doing the same type of work I did for GP at a different company, and my wife got a job as a manager for a major retail chain. I took a severe pay cut from what I ws making at GP, but it was more than the unemployment checks, plus other reasons had us deciding to leave Michigan. Plus my wife's new job had her making about $4 an hour more than she was making back home in Michigan. That same week we found an apartment and made plans to move out here to New York in September. We had a big garage sale, sold almost everything we had and have pretty much started from square one.
The thing I miss most about my old job isn't the money, but it's the people. You spend 50-70 hours a week with people you become pretty close. I could walk through that plant and say hi to every person I passed, I knew their name, their wife's name, their kids' names, etc. I loved sitting around BS'ing with the old guys about stuff. I learned so much from those guys. We were all like one big family with all the traits of a real family. Then the next thing you know you're never going to see them again. I miss those guys. And I was only there a little over 5 years. I can't imagine what it's been like for the guys who were there for 20-40 years.
I miss Michigan. I didn't expect the homsickness to last this long, but it seems to get worse instead of better. I miss my family. My dad worked at the plant too and he and my mom ended up moving to Ohio. He's still out of work, thankfully my mom went back to school before all this happened. He was gonna leave the plant anyway and now he really doesn't have to work. L:ucky bastard I really miss my in-laws. My father-in-law is probably one of the best friends I ever had and I miss our time in the woods and on the water. I'm a pretty quiet person, and he doesn't shut up My wife's grandpa passed away a couple months ago and we went back for the funeral. I couldn't help but think about the future. Do I really want to be so far away from my family that I don't see them but once or twice a year till I am amking the trip back to the midwest for their funerals. I know it sounds a little morbid, but it's the truth. If my father-in-law lives to be 80, I'm only gonna be able to spend another 30-60 days with him if you figure I'll be able to visit once a year for two days. The same with the rest of my family. That sucks.
I got 92 days in on the water last year before we moved. I probably won't get to spend that much time on my homewaters there if I add up all my future trips together. That ain't cool either.
The cost of living out here in NY is higher so we are pretty much living paycheck to paycheck. If we made what we are making here back home we'd be living pretty well. I'm sick and tired of living this way so I'll be going back to college starting this summer. I'm gonna go for an associates degree in civil engineering technology with an emphasis in architecture, then if all goes well transfer to a 4 year school and get my bachelor's in architecture. Then hopefully work on a masters degree. I figure the only way to put an end to this vicious cycle is to get off my butt and do something about it. I figure if I spend all of my time whining about things they're never going to get better.
So till I finish school we're gonna still be living in a little 800 square foot apartment. We're gonna struggle, probably paycheck to paycheck. The old saying that sometimes you have to take a few steps back to move a few steps foward sucks, but there's some truth to it. Hopefully I'm all done stepping backwards. I'd sure like to get back on track for an early retirement
Sorry for the novel Damian, I need therapy Keep your head up, you found a job once, you can do it again.