Student examines life after factory closing

From The Register-Mail:

By Rebecca Beno
Knox News Team
More than six years after Maytag left the city, there’s an overall sense of resiliency in the lives of former employees of the manufacturing giant, according to an extensive survey conducted by Knox college faculty and students.

The survey, Maytag Employees in Transition, was mailed to a random sample of 425 former Maytag workers. Researchers wanted to know what happened to the final wave of 902 union workers who were displaced in September 2004 when production shut down and moved to Reynosa, Mexico. A list of management workers let go at that same time was not available.

‘We wanted to see if we could find some answers,’ said Marilyn Webb, distinguished professor of journalism at Knox College and director of ‘The Maytag Project.’

About the study
The study was led by Webb, with additional support and cooperation of Knox College and professors Richard Stout, of economics; Diana Beck, of education; Mike Godsil, of photography; and of Suzanne Michaels, a sociologist at the City University of New York; Dave Bevard, the former president of Maytag’s International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers union local; and a team of Knox students and Journalism Program Fellows including recent graduates Ryan Sweikert, Levi Flair (now a graphics designer), and Knox senior Annie Zak, current editor-in-chief of the college newspaper, participated.

It was a unique study in that it also included a group of former Maytag workers themselves in designing the survey.

Of the 452 survey mailed, 133 were returned, which represents a 31 percent response rate. Recipients of the survey were randomly chosen, but were representative of the proportions of the 902 workers who were men and women, who retrained and who didn’t, and those who had lived in specific wards in Galesburg and the surrounding area.

Bevard said former workers who have not done well did not answer the survey.

‘The feeling is “what good can it do me?” he said.

Researchers determined that results might be skewed toward those who have more successfully recovered rather than toward those who have had a rougher time. More women than men and only a fraction of members of minority groups answered surveys.

The closing remains a sore topic for many.

‘A lot of people are close-mouthed about things. It probably hurts for them to talk about it,’ said former employee John Eskridge, 50, who was part of the study design team. ‘For some people, it brings on a lot of emotion. It changed their lives a lot. A lot of people out there, it was the only place they ever worked. Generations of families worked there.’