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Workers' future uncertain after Lane announcement

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Updated: 9/10/2013 12:54 am
LEE COUNTY, Miss. (WTVA) -- Monday's announcement that more than 1,400 in Lee County would likely be laid off from Lane Furniture Industries came as a surprise for some workers.

Though no one agreed to on-camera interviews for fear of losing their jobs, many workers at the Belden facility told WTVA the word "layoff" was never mentioned in a meeting they had with company officials there.

In fact, they say they've been told the company has found a potential buyer.

That course of events seems to match wording in a news release from parent company Furniture Brands International, where company officials say they've received interest from potential buyers.

Workers at the Saltillo location, though, got a very different story: letters warning of a potential layoff.

One letter, sent Sept. 6 and obtained by WTVA, says that the first terminations would likely begin October 14.

In the one-page letter, Furniture Brands Senior Vice President Meredith M. Graham says Lane "continues to be unprofitable" and "we are unsure of our ability to secure a financial solution for Lane."

Keep in mind that the company's official news release about the bankruptcy filing doesn't mention layoff numbers or even layoffs at all with regard to Lane Furniture Industries.

That may seem unusual because economic leaders with the Community Development Foundation say the company's already given advance notice to the state's department of employment security how many would likely be let go in Lee County.

That number stands more than 1,400, which comprises both the Saltillo and Belden locations.

It's also one-fourth of Furniture Brands' U.S. workforce.

In a statement released Monday, CDF President and CEO David Rumbarger said "many of our good, hard-working people have lost their jobs at no fault of their own with the layoff at Lane Furniture Industries."

Rumbarger said CDF has also applied for a national emergency grant to help with training and re-employment services.

He adds he's confident the county will rebound even if these layoffs take place.

WTVA has learned at least one worker from the Belden facility received a layoff letter in the mail as well.

The one positive here, according to some economic experts: Furniture Brands International is filing for bankruptcy on everything but Lane Furniture Industries, meaning there's a good chance they think they'll be able to sell it for a greater profit to a potential buyer.
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