By Jim Cooper, Editor

A wadded up Canadian flag symbolized the sentiments of many Spencer Veneer employees as the plant closed last week.

Some workers used a forklift Friday to unceremoniously remove the flag that once flew over the plant in the Roane Industrial Park. They tossed it onto a desk in the main office to express their disgust with the plant's parent company, Canadian-based General Woods & Veneers, and owner Steven Elefant.

"I don't think it's fair. It's unjust," Van Rucker said. "The owner was just trying to get away with what he could."

Rucker, a 52-year-old Spencer resident, was one of those handed a paper on June 8 that announced the plant would close one week later and put 132 people out of work. He was also among dozens of former Spencer Veneer employees who attended a Workforce West Virginia session Tuesday afternoon at the Heritage Park Community Building designed to help with job retraining and other matters.

"I'll do whatever I can do," Rucker, who had worked at Spencer Veneer for seven weeks, said. "Maybe I can get a job at Tudor's." A Gino's/Tudor's restaurant is scheduled to open in Spencer this fall.

Rucker said he was surprised by the one-week notice given to employees, but recognized signs that the end was near.

"A lot of lumber was leaving and none was coming in," Rucker, who worked in the plant's lumber mill, said. The plant sawed logs into veneers used in products including furniture, doors and paneling.

Arnoldsburg resident Joe Skaggs, 51, was a loader operator. He said he had also expected the plant to close.

"There was no doubt about it to me," he said. "I was in the yard and we were the first ones to receive logs. We hadn't been receiving any and that was like writing on the wall that something was going on."

Skaggs said the company was well aware of the financial difficulties it cited in extending only a one-week notice of closing to employees.

"It's not like overnight you lose your line of credit," he said. "They could have given us some kind of idea."

Skaggs, a plant employee for nearly two years, said his job future was questionable. He has posted his resume online and had some unsuccessful interviews.

"I'd hate to move away from this area, but I might not have any choice," he said.

Connie Handy said the abrupt notice was difficult. Handy, a 46-year-old Spencer resident, would have marked her seventh year at the plant in September.

"When it happened it hit hard," Handy said. "One week of notice was not good. There was no preparation for the families."

Handy said she was well aware of the safety problems that plagued the plant along with the financial difficulties since it opened in 2000. Incidents included a man dying after a fall from a walkway that did not have a handrail and a woman surviving a scalping when her hair got caught in a slicer. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued the plant several citations.

"When I first started out the safety was horrible," Handy said. "My husband was burned and had to have skin grafts on his leg when he fell off a ladder into a vat."

Handy said she was still due her last paycheck and worried that it might bounce. She said she had heard that some other companies were interested in taking over the Spencer Veneer operation and hopes to return to her old job as a slicer operator.

"I'm praying for that," she said.

Continued at www.thetimesrecord.net