Tammy Heeter woke up Friday as a loyal former Wood-Mode employee and ended the day feeling “betrayed.”
“We were lied to,” she said after receiving an automated text message notifying her and the 937 other laid off workers that medical, dental, vision and other insurance coverage was ending as of midnight Friday.
It was a stark change from earlier in the day when Heeter picked up her final paycheck from Wood-Mode and joined more than 200 other displaced employees at the VFW in Selinsgrove to hear from a New York City attorney about a pending class-action lawsuit against the company.
"I'm conflicted. Unfortunate things happen and I have loyalty to a company that provided me an opportunity for 20 years," she said Friday morning about her reluctance to join one of at least three pending federal lawsuits filed in U.S. District Court Middle District of Pennsylvania alleging Wood-Mode violated the Workers Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act by failing to give the 932 employees at least 60 days notice of the plant closure.
She joined the lawsuit later in the day.
Tim Hammaker said he wanted to hear what the lawyer, Jack Raisner, a partner with Outten & Golden, had to say but he wasn’t sure what he'll do, either.
"I still haven't woken up from this nightmare, but I've got to keep my options open," said the 58-year-old with 37 years of experience at Wood-Mode. "There's been so many rumors. I just want to hear the truth."
The lack of explanation from Wood-Mode owners CEO Robert Gronlund and his son, company president and Chief Operating Officer Brooks Gronlund, has been the most difficult to bear for Heeter and many of her former colleagues.
Neither the Gronlunds or company spokesman David Scarr have responded to repeated calls for comment since Monday's closure of the 77-year-old plant.
In addition to losing medical and welfare insurance, Heeter said she learned unused vacation will also be unpaid.
"I’m not conflicted anymore. People are going real fast from sad to mad,” she said.
"It would be a whole lot easier if Robert or Brooks would tell us something. Just make a statement," said Melinda Stuck, a 25-year employee from Mount Pleasant Mills who has two children in college and is still paying off her own college bills.
As she filled out paperwork for the Outten & Golden law firm at the VFW, Stuck said if the Gronlunds had issued a statement of any kind "I wouldn't be here. I'd be out looking for a job."
After receiving the automated text notification about the end of insurance benefits Stuck echoed Heeter’s shock.
“I’m feeling very betrayed,” she said. “I want to know what happened, what went wrong. Take responsibility.”
A chance encounter with Robert Gronlund in the plant parking lot Wednesday left Heeter with even more questions.
"I said, 'Hi, Robert. I'm thinking about you,' and he thanked me for the kind words," she said, referring to comments she made in a Daily Item article the day before. "Your kindness is more than I deserve," Gronlund told Heeter before he added, "Don't give up. There's still a heartbeat."
Heeter said she doesn't know what that comment meant.
The single 59-year-old Beavertown resident said bills are piling up, including medical bills from a March surgery. Before having the mandatory surgical procedure, Heeter said she spoke with Scarr about her concern that with cancer, vision and dental insurance lapses she wanted to make sure the company would cover her medical expenses.
She was assured the insurance would be covered then but has little confidence after this past week’s events.