Displaced Terex workers ‘sought-after commodity’ in Waverly, Iowa

The Terex Cranes plant is removing equipent of the Waverly site to prepare the plant for sale.(Matthew Putney/Courier Photo Editor)

WAVERLY — Displaced Terex Cranes workers heard about opportunities for the future at the Waverly Civic Center Thursday.

According to The Courier, morning and afternoon meetings provided information on unemployment benefits, community assistance, education, retraining and future employment options. Between 80 and 90 former Terex employees attended the morning meeting.

175 Terex employees were laid off when the Waverly plant ceased operations immediately July 19. The manufacturing outfit, a staple of the community for 75 years, will move work to Oklahoma City, where production is scheduled to begin in September.

“We’re hoping they will see there’s a lot of assistance available to them, as well as community support,” said Christi Mason, director of workforce development for Cedar Valley IowaWorks.

Mason said many of the workers are more than 50 years of age and had been with the company for decades.

“I’m one year from retirement, so I suppose I’ll be okay,” said Rick Hardee, who worked in maintenance with Terex for 28 years. “I can stretch things out and pick up something for a year, but the younger workers are a lot worse off I think. … They gotta find something different.”

Hardee added he was thankful to have a voice via United Auto Workers 411 union representation.

“I’m hoping someone will pay me to go back to school or retrain,” said Robert Paulson of Fayette, “because the position I’ve been doing for 20 years no longer exists in Iowa.”

Paulson, a Terex assembler, said he’d been solely supporting his family for years with a $25-per-hour manufacturing job, but was doubtful he’d find similar work.

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Multiple representatives at the meeting stressed the workers have highly sought-after skills, and Connie Tolan at Waverly Economic Development said her office has been contacted by 36 Cedar Valley employers asking specifically for former Terex workers.

A job fair featuring those employers will take place from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Aug. 23 at the Civic Center.

Some of those employers include John Deere, looking to fill three to four positions, a newly opened Winnebago plant in Waverly seeking 15 to 20 hires and Transco Railway Products of Oelwein seeking to hire 150 workers.

“The great thing that you guys have going for you is that the economy is relatively strong, and you’re a very, very sought-after commodity,” said Ronee Slagle, district manager for Iowa Workforce Development.

Slagle said the former Terex employees will receive 60 days of vacation pay as well as maximum or near-max unemployment benefits given that most workers had been with Terex for many years.

Workers are also eligible for various extensions in benefits, including the anticipated extension if the plant is deemed a closure or if one chooses to return to school.

Devin Kielman, 30, of Waverly was glad to hear he could collect unemployment while attending school.

“I’m not sure, but I may check out Hawkeye (Community College) and maybe look into something with heating and cooling,” said Kielman, who worked 10-plus years with Terex as an assembler.

“Something stable,” he added.

Terex representatives told The Courier via email 100 Terex office workers will remain at the company’s global business systems offices in their present location in Waverly for now.

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“Our current plan is to keep the GBS team in the existing office space until we determine interest in purchasing the Waverly facilities. We are open to considering leasing office space in the Waverly area for GBS,” said Jamie Harthoorn, an associate marketing manager with Terex.

Around 75 nonproduction, commercial office, design/engineering and purchasing team members will remain in place during this transition, company officials added.

Additional community organizations represented at the meeting included Hawkeye, Consumer Credit Counseling of Waterloo, Iowa Department of Human Services, the Educational Opportunity Center, Veterans Affairs, UAW Local 838 community services and others.

While community representatives offered an optimistic picture for the future, a moment of levity betrayed a hint of desperation on the part of ex-Terex workers.

When noisy roof work on the Civic Center interrupted the meeting, a former Terex worker asked, “Do they need help?”

The room erupted in laughter.