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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Robert Riley, February 1, 1994. Interview K-0106. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Struggling to find work after losing job at White's

Riley describes the effects of White's closings in Hillsborough and Mebane. He describes his struggle to find work after thirty-one years at White's: just five years from retirement, he faced the need to restart his working life from the beginning. He held a temporary position for about five months before finding a permanent job, which he anticipates starting shortly after the time of this interview.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Robert Riley, February 1, 1994. Interview K-0106. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

How do you think the town, this area--Efland's pretty close--changed since the Mebane plant closed? You've got the two plants closed now within five miles.
ROBERT RILEY, SR.:
Mebane is five miles this way and Hillsborough is five miles that way.
CHRIS STEWART:
Yes, and they closed within five or six years of each other. How did it affect you?
ROBERT RILEY, SR.:
A lot of people I don't think have jobs yet. What a lot of them chose to do was to go back to school. There is a technical school at Alamance. Some chose to go that route, and some are still looking for jobs, and some were at the age where they could go ahead and retire. This is why the closing of the plant affected most people in different ways. Those that were able to retire quite naturally it didn't bother them too much. But, those like me that had been there thirty-one years and had to start all over again… I wasn't able to retire. It was an adjustment that I never thought I would have to make.
CHRIS STEWART:
What's that like, Mr. Riley?
ROBERT RILEY, SR.:
Well, it's something that I hope I never have to experience again. You have to be strong though, and there again, I've always felt like this, if there was something out there I would get a little of it. I found out one thing, the job market today is a lot different than what it was years ago. If you knew somebody years ago, they knew somebody so just come on to work. Today there are so many people out there looking for jobs. Like I told you, a lot of the places I went looking for a job you don't any closer than the guard and they said they don't even take applications here. You have to go to the unemployment place up in Burlington or you have to go to temporary. If they need people they call temporary. Temporary has a service and what that service does is if a John Doe needs ten people tomorrow and he's paying six dollars an hour they will probably sent you over there and work you for five dollars an hour. So the temp probably gets a dollar of your salary. If you are smart you will go over there and if it's the right place and continue to work regularly then it's possible that you could go ahead on and become a full-time employee. We have G.E. right up the road here, but you don't go to G.E. you go to temporary. That's how you get in. They tell me that you have to work something like three to five hundred hours with that service before you can get a permanent job. Some people just get discouraged and tired after working so hard and so long and they take a percentage of your money for nothing.
CHRIS STEWART:
How close are you to retirement?
ROBERT RILEY, SR.:
I'm fifty-seven years old. Five years from now I can get social security and that's part of your retirement.
CHRIS STEWART:
Were you angry?
ROBERT RILEY, SR.:
Well, disappointed. I had been with them for thirty-one years and I felt like that if anybody had worked as hard as I did White's would still have been there today. In other words, I hated to see the buy out because I felt like the buy out was going to be a change. There were a lot of things I could see coming but couldn't do a thing about. At the time it hit it some of the people just right, but it hit me just wrong. I was just five or six years from retirement and had been building on a retirement for years and years and years, and to find out five years before retiring that it was frozen, but the five years that I needed to build the most the company is no more so I've got to start all over again to try to build somewhere else and don't have building time. I was kind of disappointed, but what can do?