Cargill plant closure presents challenges for older employees

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by Priscilla Luong

MILWAUKEE-- After 29 years and 11 months, Richard Rice walked out doors at Milwaukee's Cargill beef processing plant for the last time Thursday.

"It went kind of slow," said Rice, recalling his last day, "and then it was kind of sad because you've been working around these people for so long it's like a family."

The Cargill slaughterhouse will close its doors permanently Friday.

"Almost 30 years," said Rice, reflecting on his time at Cargill, "and then everybody's going their different directions."

Rice was one month shy of his 30th anniversary with the company.  Milton Morrow, Rice's stepfather says their whole family was stunned by Wednesday's announcement.  Morrow says despite the challenges, Rice always looked forward to going to work each day.

"The work was really hard, really strenuous," said Milton Morrow, Rice's stepfather, "he would be pulling beef anywhere from 8-12 hours a day, then butchering and working in the cold."

Rice, who's seven years shy of retirement, never thought he would be out of work, and he is just one of many.

Nearly 600 employees will be out of work when the plant closes. 

Cargill says the closure comes during a national beef shortage. 

The company has 13 facilities in Wisconsin, a spokesperson told CBS 58 only two of these locations are beef facilities.

Cargill will do its best to find jobs for displaced workers, but it could be difficult for workers who want to stay with Cargill and remain in Wisconsin.  For Rice, this means getting out of the beef industry.

"57-years old, I'm too old to work in the cold," he said, "somewhere warm, like Wal-Mart, stocking or something like that, just not in cold weather!"

Rice says for some of his colleagues-- it means an early retirement.

"The ones who are like 62-63, there isn't too much left in them," said Rice.

As for Rice-- it's not over yet.

"I got a little bit left in me," he said, hopeful.

Cargill will host two job fairs for displaced workers, one to help find placement within the company and another to help workers find jobs outside of Cargill.  A company spokesperson says the details are being finalized.

  

 

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