Amanda Williams started working at Mt. Vernon Mills when she was 21 years old to support her child. 29 years later, she and about 600 other workers had the rug ripped out from under them. The mills announced 60 days in advance that their Alto location would shut its doors this month, and now hundreds of workers are left jobless.
“It’s heartbreaking,” she says. “I met a lot of people through the years, I’ve gotten close with a lot of people, and a lot of them are my family. That’s how I look at it.”
Mount Vernon Mills is a textile mill company based out of South Carolina, operating 12 facilities and employing over 2,400 individuals. The Alto location has been a major employer of Habersham county citizens for many years, but is closing its doors and leaving hundreds of loyal employees behind.
Amanda Williams filed for unemployment yesterday. Depending on her health and employment, she may have to consider turning to Social Security disability, but she says she doesn’t want to do that. She wants to work as much as she can. Right now, though, she’s jobless and trying to find work. Not having her share of the household income isn’t an option for Williams, whose income is not only for herself and her family, but for her grandchildren too.
The paycheck Amanda earned from the mill was what she raised her children on, and the people she worked with helped too. “Back in 2010, […] my husband and I were both in the hospital. I had just had my youngest child, he was in the NICU, and my mill family stepped up immediately,” Williams said. “We weren’t working; I’m blessed with them, but it [the mill closing] does sadden me.”
Williams says that some of her coworkers that were couples lost their jobs at the same time, and are now both unemployed with families to care for. “A lot of them are young,” she says, “and there are a few that are close to retirement, but not quite there yet. I’m one of them.”
She recalls her last days in the mill with her coworkers that became family as emotionally raw. “A lot of them have cried, a lot of them are angry,” Williams says. “No one expected it.”
Williams said the threat of the mill closing had been on and off all 29 years she was employed there. Sometimes the employees would hear that the mill was in good standing, and other times they heard that it wasn’t. “We knew our seasons,” she said. “January, it was slow, and then it would pick back up. We were told around December that things weren’t looking all that great. We came back off Christmas break and I was told it was shutting down.”
The official word from the mill didn’t come until Jan. 9, giving employees exactly two months to find new work. Some mill workers still don’t have the entirety of their earnings, waiting on the paychecks that sustain their lives.
“Them [Mount Vernon Mills] closing has [caused] me to lose my place to live,” a former Mount Vernon Mills employee said, who asked to be kept anonymous. “Now I’m staying here and there trying to find another job.”
That’s what everyone at the mill seems to be doing, according to former employees. Amanda says that the mill couldn’t be around forever, new technology is coming in and “it’s time to learn the new stuff,” she says.
Even with her positive outlook and faith that everything is in God’s hands, losing her job isn’t easy.
“Pray for us all,” Williams asks her community. “That’s what we need more than anything– prayer. If anyone’s willing to hire us, we’ll all work hard, that’s what we believe in.”