Trading Places

Inside views on the jobs market

Struggling in Alabama

May 5, 2009

This is part of a series of personal accounts about how people are surviving the recession. The writers are contributors to Associated Content.

By Jim Jones

In 2006, I lost my job at the Florence, Ala., VF Jeanswear factory when the company decided to outsource jobs to India.

I had worked there 26 years as an all-around laborer, manually placing zippers, laces and more into clothing before our machinery attached them.

I had built up a large pension. When 2,000 co-workers and I were laid off, there was panic. How were we going to raise our kids and pay bills?

President Obama’s decision to go after companies that ship jobs overseas is a first step. In one of his campaign speeches, he said he will “restore a sense of fairness and balance to our tax code by finally ending the tax breaks for corporations that ship our jobs overseas.”

That is the right direction, helping the lower and middle classes bounce back, regain jobs and support our economy.

Since the layoff at VF Jeanswear, I’ve been doing odd jobs, working as a bartender and retraining as an electrician. But I have had no steady income. I don’t have many options because my VF Jeanswear job caused damage to my shoulders. Most of the cartilage in my left shoulder is gone. Now, I can’t perform any repetitive motion or lift anything heavy.

In my small Alabama community, this severely limits my job choices. Florence has been hit hard as many of the large companies have closed shop here. My former co-workers have been retraining in different fields, but I’m beginning to question if that will do them any good. One of my friends finished a two-year community college degree, but she still cannot find a job in our area.

Despite Obama’s promises, I am still in a downward spiral. Paying my bills is hard. Last month, I almost lost my house. I was able to stop the bank’s foreclosure by borrowing money from my family, but they can’t help much more. They’re struggling, too.


Start your own business, use your strong points, I see you have 26 years experience in fashion so you should be good at it. Work from home, use an online store and keep costs as low as possible. Keep doing the odd jobs until your own business makes you enough money.


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