Johnson Controls cuts workforce in half - 114 are out of work

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By Nathan L. McBroom

When Steve Lear left his job at Johnson Controls last Thursday, his supervisors told him that his job would be there for him after the company came back from a month-long hiatus.

But on Monday, Lear and 113 other employees found out that before they walked out the door on Thursday, their pink slips were already in the mail.

"That was the notice I got for giving Johnson Controls 10 years of hard work," he said. "They don't care about no one but themselves."

Johnson Controls, which locally manufactures seats for Ford F-series trucks, was planning a month-long layoff of both shifts from July 7 to August 11 as the Ford factory in Louisville remained idle. In the last year, sales of the F-series Ford trucks have decreased by 53 percent. Officials from the United Auto Workers said they anticipated some jobs being lost, but they also expected some kind of advanced notice.

The layoff letters, which were written on July 2 and post-marked on July 3, were delivered to the local United Auto Workers 2969 office on Saturday, July 5. Greg Hawn, the president of local 2926, opened the letters on July 7 and began passing the letters out to the workers who had been laid off.

Hawn said the way the company notified the workers was disgraceful.

"I'm not going to straight out call someone a liar, but it was very deceitful," he said. "We knew there was going to be a job reduction. But we didn't expect to be notified by mail."

With the cuts, the factory has cut half of its workforce. It will operate on one shift when workers come back to work in August.

Factory supervisors would not comment on the layoffs. Corporate officials could not be reached for comment.

Lear and other employees were outraged over how they were notified.

"We did not deserve this. We've got families to support," he said.

When I got that piece of mail, that tells me that I've got two months to find insurance for my kids. And when you are trying to provide, every day counts."

Leading up to the scheduled month-long hiatus, rumors of a permanent layoff had been going around the factory.

Neil Taylor, who had worked there for nearly 10 years, said one day before the hiatus a supervisor told him that there would be no permanent layoffs.

"But the whole time they had a whole stack of letters in their office," he said. "Some kind of heads-up would have been nice."

He said the company has a history of deception.

"We know that the economy is going to hell in a hand basket and that Ford is having a tough go of it, but at Johnson Controls they have a tendency to do things as a last minute surprise," he said. "It's a shock, but it's not a shock."

Taylor said he still has personal belongings in his locker inside the building. He hopes the company will allow him to come clean out his locker, but he said former employees are not currently allowed in the building.