Vermont Tubbs lays off 90 workers

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(Host)  Vermont Tubbs can trace it roots back 168 years.  That’s when William F. Tubbs began using steam to bend ash into snowshoes and skis.    The company opened its furniture factory in Brandon in 1996.  

Next Thursday that factory will close its doors for good, leaving over 90 employees wondering what’s next.  

VPR’s Nina Keck reports.

(Keck)  Toby Alger has worked at Vermont Tubbs for 20 years.    On June 3rd, he says employees learned that Brown Street Furniture – a 35-year old furniture maker in Whitefield, New Hampshire – had bought the Vermont company’s assets and name.      

(Alger) "The told us in June that they were going to make every effort to keep the jobs in Vermont –  if they could do it.  Most of their sticking points were because of high rent, taxes, energy costs, high costs of doing business in Vermont."

(Keck)   As word was getting out about the closure company officials could not be reached.   Alger says a group of employees approached Brandon officials, local utilities and state agencies to see what could be done to keep the Vermont plant open.   But those efforts he says didn’t seem to make a difference.

(Alger) "A week and a half after we found out that they had acquired assets – we all knew in our heart of hearts that it wasn’t going to stay here – we were just waiting for the official date hoping that there was going to be  a miracle that it was going to stay but knowing that it wasn’t going to happen." 

(Keck)  The official word and first layoffs came last week.  More layoffs have followed and Alger says their last production day will be next Thursday.

(Alger) "It breaks my heart horribly to see it happen.  Because when we put years of service it’s not just coming to work every day for a pay check.  You enjoy what you do.   Every piece of furniture that these people build gets a signature put on it.  Not a stamp not a brand.  It gets signed by the actual person building it with the date that it was built.  That’s how much pride we have in our product, so it breaks everybodies’ heart to see it happen."

(Keck)   Salaries at Vermont Tubbs range from $ 9.50 to $14.50 an hour with benefits. Nearly half the employees live in Brandon and workers say the town will be hard hit by the loss.  

Richard Giddings, of the Vermont Agency of Human services was at the factory yesterday with representatives from several other state agencies. 

(Giddings) "To talk about everything from unemployment to health care to child care to fuel assistance and  food stamps – just to make sure people got as much information as they needed and also what number to call should they need additional questions."

(Keck)   Prospective employers are expected at the factory today as part of a job fair.   

For VPR News, I’m Nina Keck in Brandon.

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