State labor leaders and Gov. Norm Bangerter are not sure how many former employees of Utah's Farmer Jack stores still are unemployed, but they hope to be able to help at least 391 of them.
Bangerter and Utah AFL-CIO President Ed Mayne announced Tuesday that $1 million will be used to help the employees learn how to find new jobs. The money is a grant from the federal government.About 3,000 workers were laid off last year when Farmer Jack decided to close its 61 stores, product distribution system, bakery and dairy. The governor and labor leaders wanted $2.3 million so they could help about 900 people.
"We hope to show the Department of Labor this program is working so they can give us more money," Mayne said.
About 70 percent of the 391 former workers to be helped by the money live in Utah, he said. Former workers will be contacted by mail. The program will be administered by Salt Lake County over an 18-month period.
"This is the first step to let them (former workers) know," Mayne said, referring to the news conference announcing the program.
Bangerter said he is happy the former employees will have help being retrained.
"The primary objective is to get them placed in good, high-salaried jobs so they can provide for their families," he said.
Farmer Jack started closing its stores in five Western states in April 1988. In July 1988, the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 711 and Teamsters Local 222 joined with the state AFL-CIO to draft a proposal to Labor officials asking for $2.3 million.
Bangerter and Mayne have not been the best of friends in recent years, but Mayne had nothing but praise for the governor Tuesday.
"The governor has always respected the partnership between government and workers by involving them in the planned efforts to assist them," said a statement prepared by the union.