Many former Galesburg Maytag workers fear never fully recovering

By Aryn Norton
Knox News Team

Economies experience periods of downturn, but the hope is that afterwards things will get better and new jobs will replace ones lost. However, to 40 percent of former Maytag workers surveyed this hope is just not there.
In looking at the Maytag Employees in Transition Survey, 49 percent of the 121 people who answered this particular question said they fear they will never recover financially from the closing of Maytag.

They base their responses on a variety of factors, but the demographics of those with this fear are not surprising. Some 26 percent of them now have household incomes between $10,000 and $20,000 a year, which is under the national poverty line.

Another 29 percent of those who fear they will never recover have, at one time or another, had to work several jobs at once since Maytag closed. Although a little more than half of them are now employed full time, the rest are part-time employees, retired or have no job at all. Thus the reality is even if these former Maytag workers have since found new jobs, these jobs are low paying.

Before the layoff, the median household income of Maytag workers was between $40,000 and $50,000 a year, with additional benefits and vacation time. No one who was surveyed said their household income was less than $20,000 a year at Maytag. Now just over a quarter of those who said they would never recover have an annual household income of between $10,000 and $20,000.

‘The majority of jobs out there are minimum wage or no benefits,’ says Larry Anglund, 54, who worked at Maytag for 30 years and retired after the closing. ‘That’s hard to accept.’

For people like Anglund who came out of the closing with a pension and health insurance, things are easier. ‘I can be a little more selective than most because I have my pension,’ he said. ‘But some people have to work these (low-paying) jobs.’

As other former Maytag workers look for new jobs similar to the ones they had they find either that the jobs are not there, that the pay and rewards are not the same, or that the available jobs themselves are demanding and menial. If one must take any job that comes their way, the question becomes: How can one find a decent job in this changed economy? This is especially important for older workers.

Greg Saul, 52, who worked at Maytag for 16 years, attempted to branch away from the manufacturing sector of the workforce, enrolling at Carl Sandburg College to become an X-ray technician.

‘It was deceiving,’ he said. ‘To get a degree and get a job is not as easy as they make it out to be.’

Saul currently works as an X-ray tech who is called in as needed, an indicator of the disappointment in job prospects in what he thought was supposed to be a growing healthcare field.

‘I think part of the reason I am unable to get a part-time job is because they have saturated the market with us, so they can hire a lot of part-time people and not pay them benefits.’ Saul says. ‘And if they do hire a full-time person, it’s a younger person whom they can advance into different positions.’…