Hundreds of Paper Mill Employees Looking for Answers

Abitibi employees packed the Lufkin Civic Center on Monday looking for answers.

"A lot of people have been at the mill. They haven't done anything else but the mill. They need to be retrained. And we need to get information about how things work with unemployment," said 13 year employee Darrell Kenon.

"Exactly how the TAA benefits and the unemployment benefits and the changes thereof. There been so many things that have been changed since the last time it was filed that they're having trouble getting us because some of us filed at an earlier date," 25 year old employee explained Andy Johnson.

The TAA that he mentioned is Trade Adjustment Assistance. When a company lays off employees because of imports from or shifts in production to Mexico and Canada, the TAA will provide those employees financial assistance for job retraining. But there are a lot of questions among Abitibi workers about who is eligible for TAA and what actual benefits are provided.

Questions ranged from Social Security benefits to education to financial futures. Of course, many of those questions could not be answered, but organizers hope this is the beginning of much more help to come. Some employees say they face a harsh reality that all of the advice and guidance can't help them.

"Not old enough to retire, and really nobody wants a person our age, with the health handicaps that we have. I don't know what we're going to do, I don't know , I don't know what people my age our going to do, I really don't," added 35 year employee W.C. Allen.

But many other employees say with the right tools and knowledge, there may be some hope.