Victor Recindos has aged 26 years by the calendar's count since first becoming a mechanic at Pilgrim's Pride chicken processing plant just south of downtown, but he says the decades of continuous labor have worn away at his body and left him run down. He feels ill-prepared to reenter the job market among younger and stronger competition, especially after it's taken a long time to work his way up the pay scale to a level that can sustain his family.
His wife and four boys financially depend on the job as much as he does, and his coworkers, some of whom have worked there longer than he, have become like family. Things were stable for a long time, until they weren't.
As of today, he no longer has a job.
As announced by Pilgrim's Pride in July, the factory, Recindos' second home, is closing its doors as part of cost-cutting consolidation. The closure will affect 1,000 hourly and salaried employees, many of whom have been with the company for decades.
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"That's how we eat; that's how we pay bills; it's going to be hard for us," Recindos, who speaks only Spanish, said through his teenage son, Luis Recindos. Luis and his twin brother are graduating high school this year, and Recindos worries about how he will afford the extra expenses that come with graduation, from the cap and gown to the photos.
The company, which struggled with a $128.1 million loss last quarter, sounded slightly reassuring to employees in its July press release announcing the impending closure. "The company will provide transition programs to employees who are not retained in order to assist them in securing new employment, filing for unemployment and obtaining other applicable benefits," the release read. The only offer Recindos has received is for a check worth one week's pay, he said.
After 26 years of showing up to work every day, Recindos, who came to the United States from El Salvador shortly before starting at the plant, insists that is not enough. He will not accept it. He said plant employees were told that they must turn in their work ID card, collect their additional week's pay and sign a paper acknowledging that they received the compensation. Recindos and many of his coworkers are foregoing the small severance and plan on working with an employee advocacy organization to obtain more.
"He doesn't know how he's gonna do it," Luis said, adding that his father is not one to sit around and wait. He'll be looking for a job right away.