What's next for BPI, laid off workers - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

What's next for BPI, laid off workers

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WATERLOO (KWWL) -

In just more than two weeks, more than 200 workers will be out of a job, when Beef Products, Incorporated officially closes operations at its Waterloo plant, located inside Tyson Foods.

As we reported first Monday night, the company has decided to halt operations permanently after controversy surrounding its product called "lean finely textured beef".

Efforts are already underway to help laid off employees and their families. 

BPI's plant, located inside Tyson Foods in Waterloo, will soon shut its doors for good.  While many employees saw it coming, after the plant announced a temporary shut down this spring, they'll now feel the impact of unemployment, as paychecks quit coming later this month.

Rachel Clemons and her husband Brian are devastated by the closing, since they've been employed at BPI a combined 22 years.

"I can't even imagine what's going to happen with us.  I mean everything we've worked so hard for all these years... My husband's put in 16 years with this company.  He has worked his butt off to provide for us, to provide everything that we have, and now it all just kind of hangs in limbo," Rachel Clemons said.

The situation's made tougher still for their four kids.

"Our daughter is too young to understand what's going on.  But my son is 13.   He understands.   He's been wearing his, 'Dude, it's beef' shirt to school.  And it's really funny how supportive a 13 year old can be through this.  But you know, he's sad.   He may have to move away from his friends because of this," Clemons said.

The Greater Cedar Valley Alliance and Chamber is partnering with Iowa Workforce Development to help laid off workers, like the Clemons', get connected with resources that can help.  Federal emergency grants are being sought, which could supply funding for worker training programs ranging from college education to GED and even English language classes.

"They should be beginning to see a path forward, an opportunity to further their education, further some training, or pursue another job opportunity," said Steve Dust, Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber president.

The Chamber's actively working with Tyson Foods to see if another company might be able to take over the BPI facility, helping to restore both production and jobs.

"That's a conversation that will evolve over the next few weeks to see how we can help Tyson grow their business and at the same time, relieve BPI of an asset that should be reused," Dust said.

Bottom line--all hope's not lost.  Every available resource is being used to help BPI employees get back on their feet.

Because this is a plant closure, BPI workers will automatically be eligible for 39 weeks of unemployment benefits, which is higher than the standard amount.

In response to our questions about the closing of the BPI plant, its impact to Tyson Foods, whether a new company could be brought in, and whether BPI employees will be offered jobs at Tyson, the company issued the following statement:

"For proprietary reasons, we do not discuss agreements with our vendors or customers, however, we can tell you that we continue to match our supply with customer demand for Lean Finely Textured Beef.

As for employment, we consider all qualified applicants for potential employment."

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