BABY THROWN OUT WITH BATH WATER - US Labor Not Cheap Enough? Spencer Veneer Closing Friday


By Bob Weaver

Owners and managers of the Spencer Veneer plant have not disclosed why they are closing their plant in Spencer.

Speculation has centered on the down-turn of the housing market to a major slump in the wood producing industry related to global competition.

About 130 workers will find themselves unemployed by Friday, many of them from Calhoun County.

Roane County's Development Director Mark Whitley and Spencer Mayor Terry Williams went to Charleston yesterday to see what could be done to save the jobs.

Whitley indicated the company has lost their line of credit.

Veneer bought the nearby BF Goodrich building for expansion purposes in 2003.

Goodrich left Spencer, telling workers they were going to move their operation to other US locations, but attempted to shift many of the jobs overseas.

Spencer Veneer is a minimum wage job operation with little or no benefits.

The company has experienced a significant number of serious accidents, including the de-scalping of a local woman and at least one death when a man fell from a scaffold that had no rails.

The operation has been issued several safety violations and been the subject of personal injury suits.

Veneer workers told the Herald that the plant had trouble keeping employees, with rapid turnover.

Whitley said the company slices logs into veneer for furniture, doors, desks, and paneling. The product has been shipped all over the world.

The company has closed down manufacturing operations in Montreal and Illinois, recently saying the focus will be toward the Spencer operation.

The closure of the production plant is added to the list of outfits that have left the area in recent years, including the long-time Kellwood company.

Most of the region's plants, all of which operated in the lower-wage spectrum, were globalized, going to other countries for cheaper labor.

Free trade has thrown the baby out with the bath water, ever seeking cheaper labor.