More than 100 idled or soon-to-be idled Farmer Jack workers and spouses gathered Saturday morning to learn how to delay mortgage payments and avoid depression.
The workers' meeting at Teamsters Hall, 2641 S. 3270 West, was held because Borman's Inc. recently decided to sell or close its 61 Farmer Jack stores after purchasing them from Safeway only last April.Hans B. Moeller, a 58-year-old forklift operator at Farmer Jack Supermarkets' distribution center, said, "I'm too young to retire and too old to find work."
He said he had worked for Safeway and then Borman's for 22 years. He will either have to take early retirement or find a new job.
"I just never felt anything, it has gone down so fast," said Scott Jensen, one of 12 whose last day on the job was Friday. "I come here hoping to attempt to make a go of it."
The workers, most of whom have been employed as truck drivers and warehouse workers for more than a decade, began to feel the harsh reality of unemployment as speakers discussed how to avoid suicide, get utility bill assistance and enter job retraining programs.
"We feel like we've been raped," a warehouseman at the meeting said of the layoffs.
Jerry Levorsen, 53, said many of the workers felt they were "stabbed in the back" by Borman's, which promised growth in exchange for wage and benefit concessions.
Adding a little humor to the concern of the workers, James Fry said, "The survival attitude is better this year than last year. It has become a yearly spring break."
Ralph Taurone, secretary-treasurer for Teamsters Local 222, said corporate mergers are to blame for the job losses.
For example, the fallout of the Kohlberg, Kravis, Roberts $4.2 billion buyout of Safeway and subsequent resale to other companies has now resulted in the loss of 30,000 jobs across the nation. In Utah, that loss amounts to at least $4.8 million in wages from the store's distribution center alone.
"A few are getting very, very rich, while us workers are finding it more and more difficult to survive," he said.
The training seminar also served as political forum. Salt Lake County Commissioner Dave Watson, a Democrat, told the group to turn their frustration into votes to elect candidates "that care about people."
"I am sick that these type of things are allowed to happen. This is offensive to me," he said.
Ed Mayne, Utah AFL-CIO president, took the opportunity to criticize the Bangerter administration and gubernatorial candidate Jon Huntsman for their economic development records.
Bangerter's administration is a "bunch of bumbling idiots" and Huntsman, despite his claims, does not want to build Utah's economy. While he is the owner of one of the largest petrochemical companies, he only employs 24 people in Utah, Mayne said.
Robert Stringham, 3rd Congressional District candidate, told the group to take advantage of support programs. Without such programs, three displaced Geneva Steel workers committed suicide.