Carriage House employees get assistance

Although it won’t change the planned closing, Carriage House employees received some good news Monday. It came in the form of notification they will be eligible for Trade Adjustment Assistance and Alter-native Trade Adjustment Assistance.

It is the first somewhat positive news the employees have received and it came in an announcement from 23rd District Congressman Tom Reed. The TAA and ATAA will help with job training, additional unemployment insurance for individuals enrolled in training, job search allowance, re-employment services and more.

In addition to the 395 workers in the Fredonia Carriage House, seven more will lose jobs at the Talcott Street facility with 21 more being affected at the Stegelski Avenue warehouse when the shutdown is completed by its owners, ConAgra.

“Taking care of employees and making sure they have the help they need has been our primary concern from the beginning and (Monday’s) announcement means much-needed help is on the way,” Reed said. “With this help, families will have more opportunities to find solid employment with effective tools like job training.”

The Department of Labor issued approval for ConAgra employees Monday. Reed spoke with union leadership Monday to deliver the news and offer his continued help in getting employees the help they need.

Tom Dickerson is the president of SEIU Local 266 NCFO, which represents the union workers at the Fredonia and Dunkirk facilities. Dickerson said the union filed the claim on April 3 after they were notified in March Carriage House would close. Dickerson said he was waiting for more information on the program and how it would work with Carriage House employees. He added that Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand also helped with the petition to the Labor Department.

“It’s huge for all the employees here, management and union,” Dickerson stated. “I got a call this morning from Congressman Reed and a Christopher Oxford out of Washington D.C. Department of Labor and we did qualify for it.”

When Carriage House workers were notified in March the company would be shutting down its local operations, layoffs were scheduled to begin Oct. 24, with the plant to close by May 24, 2015. Those dates were moved up on July 7 and are now scheduled to occur between Oct. 5 and Feb. 28, 2015. A few employees are expected to remain to wind down operations.

“The work is not done and the entire community continues to work together for the best possible outcome for employees and their families,” Reed stated. “Between the fair severance package we worked to secure and today’s assistance, employees are in a better position to get the training and assistance they need to get a job. Our office will continue to be a resource for employees throughout this entire process.”

Ralcorp Holdings Inc. bought the former Red Wing Company in 2000 and it became part of Carriage House, a Ralcorp subsidiary. ConAgra bought Ralcorp for $5 billion in November 2012 and in January 2013 all of Ralcorp, which included the Dunkirk and Fredonia Carriage House facilities, along with Petri’s in Silver Creek, was purchased by ConAgra and closed in 2013. ConAgra’s facility in Fredonia is currently the largest private employer in the village and one of the top 25 in Chautauqua County.

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