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Today most workers will be leaving their jobs ready to enjoy the three-day holiday. For a handful of Delta Faucet employees, most of whom have dedicated at least 26 years to the company, it will be the last time they leave the factory.

Today marks the first round of lay offs in the anticipated five-month consolidation that will send about 200 jobs to the facility in Jackson, Tenn., and end assembly and brazing operations at Delta’s first plant. In all, 265 people will be out of a job. By the end of July, 80 employees will be thinned from the nearly 480 workforce, according to Paula Warner, corporate communications for Delta Faucet Company.

The plant will remain open for about 170 workers - 150 hourly and 20 salary - according to Warner as Greensburg continues finishing and machining operations.

While the doors will remain open, for many of the 265 who will be out of a job at some point before Christmas, they may as well close.

Earlier in the week, seven employees representing the people on the factory floor requested a meeting at the Daily News office to voice their concerns.

Their opinions were of a consensus. They all have people who depend on them. Some are couples; some had spouses who had been victims of other factory lay offs; some were sole providers. They all had homes, cars, medical bills. They all feared the worst - the uncertainty of what would come next. The only thing, they said, they knew was they would not be working at Delta Faucet in 2010 and left to find gainful employment at middle age in one of the worst economic climates in recent memory. On top of that, the compensation for the loss of livelihood offered them left them feeling even worse, they said.

“All we ask is they treat us leaving with some respect and dignity. There are some of us who have been there for 30 years, and they’re treating us like stray dogs,” employee #1 said. “I’m a person who thinks I gave Delta my life. I missed watching my kids grow up. I gave them blood and sweat for all these years and they’re not giving us anything.”

Due to the way the severance pay is structured, they all still feared retaliation if their names were used.

The severance compensation is one of their biggest concerns. Delta will provide the 265 ousted employees with eight weeks pay as severance as well as pay out any unused vacation, Warner said. To the employees who spoke with the Daily News, it is little more than a pat on the head for their years of service. For some who met an equation that combined age with years of employment, voluntary early retirement, which offered a lump $12,000 pay out, was offered on top of the severance package. About 85 employees took advantage, Warner said. For the rest, the employees said it was take the severance or leave it.

“If we play ball, then we get our eight-week severance. If you don’t like it, there’s the door,” employee #2 said. “All we want is fair compensation for the time we have given.”

The employees left at the facility have all been there for 26 years or more and they feel they have made the company what it is. As Delta expanded, they added facilities in Chickasha, Okla., which closed in 2006; Jackson, Tenn.; Canada and Panyu, China.

“Who made Jackson what it is? Who made Delta what it is? Who made Masco? The people of Greensburg, the heart and soul of Delta,” employee #2 said. “The only people losing here is us, the people who made you what you are. They gave us nothing but demands, and we met every one of them.”

Now, the local workers who arguably built the Delta Faucet Company, and in turn parent company Masco, feel they are bad parts being tossed out.

Employees were offered the chance to transfer to Jackson, Tenn., to fill one of the 200 new jobs. So far, 15 have shown interest, Warner said. However, the employees stated they feel the transfer avenue is a sham. They noted the top pay in Jackson is $13.50, much less than most of them make. Even an experienced assembly or brazing worker cannot transfer directly. They have to apply, interview and pay to travel to Tennessee to interview there. The hoops, they said, intensified the feeling they were no longer wanted.

It is a sense of doom they said they’ve felt since it was announced years ago the company would construct a similar but larger facility in Tennessee.

“When the dirt was broke in Jackson, they might as well have thrown it on top of us,” employee #1 said.

Delta has cited the continuing “economic downturn” and slumping housing market as reasons for the continued cuts, which whittled the once 1,200 employees to the current 480. Most of the employees felt the reason is just an excuse to get rid of the high health care costs and higher salaries.

“We’re getting tossed out because of our age and health costs and the cheap labor costs in China and Tennessee,” employee #3 said. “The economy played beautifully into their hands I believe.”

Masco, the parent company of Delta, has suffered in the last few years. According to Fortune magazine, Masco was listed as 174 on the 500 list with a net profit of nearly $14 billion in 2006. By 2008, it had dropped nearly 50 places to 223, with a profit of $11.8 billion.

Still, the employees feel they are being treated unfairly, especially since most of them began working during Delta’s golden years and helped make it a Fortune 500 company. Now, they said they are not even allowed to take vacation not scheduled prior to the late May announcement. Warner commented there was no vacation freeze-out for July and August.

“Vacation can be used in July, August and throughout the year,” Warner said. “There are limits, of course, to the number of individuals who can be on vacation at the same time, as we still need to meet current production demands. Some employees have expressed a preference to take their vacation before their release date. We are exploring ways to better accommodate those requests.”

Until their release date, the employees said they have to deal with what they describe as “psychological torture.” With added overtime and longer shifts, one employee remarked going to work, which used to be a dream, was now a nightmare.

“It’s misery to be there and not know when it’s coming,” employee #1 said. “It’s hard to go in there everyday. I’m worn out. This is real. People are going to lose their homes over this. They’re going to lose everything. (Executives) don’t have to struggle like we do. They don’t live in the real world. There’s no common sense left in the industry.”

Warner remarked this concern was being addressed by management.

“Some employees have shared their desire to be released as soon as possible. We are striving to accelerate release dates when feasible for those sharing this preference,” Warner said.

Despite how the end of the era plays out, the employees said the heart and soul of the plant - the determined work ethic of its people - still remains.

“When I started at Delta, I walked in and saw these people working their tails off,” employee #1 said. “They know their jobs are pointless, over, but they’re still working like they did for the last 25 years.”

For all the representatives, they believed they dedicated their lives to making an honest living. In exchange for a paycheck and a livelihood, they made a local, American company successful. Many planned to retire from there. Now they feel they have nothing but memories and fear of the future. All said they can only deal with the loss of their livelihood and ask for a little more from those they feel could help, people like Richard Manoogian, son of Masco and Delta founder Alex Manoogian.

“When Mr. Manoogian was still alive, Delta was a hell of a place to work. He used visit all the time, ride around on a golf cart and take time to visit with you,” employee #2 said. “After he died, it went down hill.”

They feel Richard Manoogian should feel a sense of duty to the people of Decatur County. Manoogian, who is executive chairman and chairman of the board for Masco and also director of Ford Motor Company, currently sits at 1,062 on the Forbes billionaire list and earned $11.7 million from Masco in 2008, according to Forbes. The financial disparity is almost the last straw for them, they said.

“His dad was an immigrant and came over and built his American dream. He put everything in this. If he knew what ‘junior’ was doing, he’d roll over in his grave,” employee #2 said. “His son has enough money in his golfing pocket to take care of us fairly.”

They noted they won’t hold their breath for Manoogian to arrive in Greensburg with a flood of cash. Instead, as the sun sets on the first of them to go, they can only look toward the horizon and hope they’ll see another dawn when they find themselves on the other side of the factory gate.



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