She was looking forward to a big family for Thanksgiving when Toria Neal received a text that changed her life: the mother of four was losing her job, along with everyone else in her business.
“I couldn’t believe my eyes,” Neal, 36, told The Post. “The text stated that we were all made redundant and that all of our benefits, including our health insurance, were terminated with immediate effect. I had a very bad breakdown on the spot. I thought, what am I going to do?
Neal and other United Furniture Industries workers were shocked this week when the company boxed them all 2,700 at a time, breaking the news via text message just after midnight on Tuesday.
Neal has four children under 21 and “lots of bills to pay,” she said.
“I couldn’t sleep after I got the text,” she said, breaking down into tears over the phone. “It tore me apart. It was like such a betrayal. Not just from me but from all of us. I’m worried about the older employees there who are on medication every day and won’t be able to take it anymore. pay after today without health insurance.
Neal worked as a traffic coordinator at the Mississippi branch of United Furniture. Some workers were sleeping and did not see him until the next morning. Some reportedly started driving to work before reading the message.
“I thought it was a joke,” Javier Monroy, 58, who worked as a purchasing manager at the company’s California plant, said of receiving the dismissal text message. “A few of us went to the factory on Tuesday to pick up our things and we realized it was no joke.”
Monroy was still placing orders and preparing trucks to make their deliveries just hours before he and the other employees were laid off.
“At least I’m married to a woman whose health insurance I can buy,” Monroy said. “I’m worried about my friends at the company. One of them is a single mother and the other just started cancer chemotherapy treatment last week. They won’t be able to afford a second one with our health insurance cut off.
The company violated federal law by failing to give 60 days notice before disbanding operations, Neal and Monroy are charged in a lawsuit.
It’s been a tough Thanksgiving, said Neal, who has worked at United Furniture since 2015.
“It was so tough and so emotional,” she said of the vacation. “I also have members of my family who work there. I still find it difficult to talk about it without collapsing.
“We all left Monday saying, see you tomorrow not knowing that we might never see some people again,” Neal said. “We still have some personal stuff in there, but it’s all locked down at the moment. We had no idea something like this was going to happen either.
Monroy said United Furniture owed a lot of money to outside suppliers.
“They owe millions everywhere,” said Monroy, whose job involved awareness of corporate finances.
He is also concerned about safety at the California plant. Monroy said he still had the keys to the entire facility where everything from forklifts to staplers were left up for grabs – as were the other employees.
“I told one of the managers here who are just puppets for the Mississippi bosses and he didn’t seem very concerned about who had the keys,” Monroy said. “But I heard that employees here are going to storm the building on Monday. I am worried about this. People can go crazy in these kinds of situations. Someone has to be more responsible here.
Some workers had reported to the plant last week after being fired, WTVA in Mississippi reported.
“We’re all pissed,” United Furniture employee Isaac Darkwah told the station. “We worked hard for them, then they treat us this way? »
Frelinda Isbell, who works with Darkwah, also spoke about the massive layoffs on Twitter.
“If I start another job, I have to wait 90 days to get insurance. They texted me in the middle of the night. I lost all my benefits and am a good employee. All my benefits are gone and I can’t go to the doctor. I don’t think that’s fair. It’s very bad. It’s in the middle of the holidays. I have light bills, water bills and children.
Neal’s attorney, Casey Lott, of Booneville, Mississippi, said the mass layoffs associated with the abrupt termination of benefits are not only shocking, but illegal. Lott was the first attorney to file a class action lawsuit last week against the company. Several others have since been filed.
The lawsuits are based on the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN), which requires companies with more than 100 employees to give 60 days written notice of layoffs or closures.
The mass shooting was so mishandled, Lott claims, that one of his customers in California was still buying inventory on behalf of the company on Monday and the trucks were ready for delivery the same day.
“That doesn’t make a whole lot of sense,” Lott told the Post.
“At the direction of the Board of Directors…we regret to inform you that due to unforeseen business circumstances, the Company has been forced to make the difficult decision to terminate the employment of all of its employees, with effective immediately, November 21,” the company said in messages to employees.
“With the exception of truck drivers who are on delivery. Your dismissal from the company should be permanent and all benefits will terminate immediately without provision of COBRA.
No one has yet explained why the 20-year-old, Okolona-based Miss company dissolved its operations so suddenly, but over the summer it fired its chief executive, chief financial officer and vice-president. executive president of sales, according to FurnitureToday.com. Several weeks later, some 500 employees lost their jobs at several facilities in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and Verona, Mississippi. and Victorville, California.
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