Letters win help for Cabletron workers

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 7, 2000

What began as a letter-writing campaign has evolved into more money and assistance for former Cabletron Systems Inc.

Friday, April 07, 2000

What began as a letter-writing campaign has evolved into more money and assistance for former Cabletron Systems Inc. employees.

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Congressman Ted Strickland announced the U.S. Department of Labor will extend its Goodyear/Cabletron grant for several more months as well as loosen the requirement for needs-related payments to 200 percent of poverty.

While the extension will allow the workers to continue receiving financial assistance, the lowered requirements also are expected to bring aid to about 75 additional families.

When the grant originally was announced and so many families were turned down, a small group of former Cabletron employees began writing letters urging changes in the requirements.

"The letters that we had written sent examples of why the requirements should be changed – examples of families who needed the money but just missed the requirements," said former Cabletron employee Brenda Adams, one of four women who orchestrated the campaign. Others included Brenda Myers, Debbie Horner and Teresa Pyles.

"There were people in Columbus who told us not to expect these changes, that it would take a miracle to get the grant policies changed," Ms. Adams said. "Well, it looks like we got our miracle. We told them at the time not to tell us it can’t be done, just to tell us who we needed to talk to so we could make it happen."

Ms. Adams praised Strickland’s efforts and said he was instrumental in taking the Cabletron concerns to Washington. In a press release, Strickland returned the praise to southern Ohio families and former Cabletron workers.

"Southern Ohio has been hit hard by these plant closings," Strickland said. "It is very sad that these workers and their families have had to suffer through this experience, but the reaction of the local communities has been heartening. I am continually inspired by the strength and hard work of our families, churches and local leaders during this difficult time."

The $6 million grant originated from the U.S. Department of Labor for Ironton’s former Cabletron employees as well as Hocking County’s former Goodyear plant employees.

Grant management is done through the Ohio Bureau of Employment Services, although the Ironton-Lawrence county Community Action Organization administers the funds locally.

It will help agencies retrain workers left jobless when Cabletron shut down by providing classroom education or occupational skills training, said CAO assistant Job Training Partnership Act program administrator Jewel Hackworth said when the grant was initially funded last year. And it will help fund job-search services such as aptitude testing, job counseling, transportation and child care.

Officials placed an emphasis on the needs payments provided by the grant for families who need help paying bills during their retraining period because their unemployment has run out, Ms. Hackworth said.

Now that the grant’s requirements are lowered, more families can receive assistance, Strickland said.

"Today’s announcement will help some of the affected families regain their financial footing," Strickland said. "This grant isn’t a cure-all; I still believe the earnings requirement for direct aid is too stringent. However, this is a positive step which will help literally hundreds of people in our part of Ohio."

The grant extension and lower requirements will aid Mrs. Pyles –  but if the changes had come earlier, the funding would have been of help then, too.

Mrs. Pyles and her family were originally disqualified for the grant’s stringent requirements. It was not until her husband lost his Intermet-Ironton Iron job that the grant became helpful.

Now, Mrs. Pyles said she hopes others will be able to benefit from the grant’s aid.

"This extension and the new requirements are wonderful for the families," she said. "I really think a lot of people who have worked very hard on this deserve our thanks."