Governor highlights help for BPI workers at Waterloo visit - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Governor highlights help for BPI workers at Waterloo visit

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WATERLOO (KWWL) -

"Pink slime" -- the two bad words have ultimately led to more than 200 lost jobs in Waterloo.
It's the negative term for the product "lean finely textured beef," which is made by Beef Products, Incorporated.

After public criticism of LFTB that led to decreased demand, BPI scaled back production, halting work at the facility in Waterloo and two other locations across the country.

In early May, workers learned the facility would not re-open. May 25 is the last day of pay for the workers.

On Friday Gov. Terry Branstad met with those impacted at Hawkeye Community College in Waterloo. Dozens of BPI employees filled Tama Hall trying to find information in hopes to move forward.

Branstad received a standing ovation as he approached the podium. He said he's frustrated working hard to get jobs for the state, instead of losing them, like at BPI.

The state received a $21,600 grant for the next step.  It breaks down to about $100 per worker, to be used toward job search assistance, such as computer and resume classes.

Jeanie Wright is the director of workforce development at Hawkeye Community College.

"21 percent of the workforce don't have GEDs, so we are going to use the funds for a pre-GED class. These will be intensive classes offered all summer," Wright said.

Former BPI human resources manager Rick Wood was among those in the crowd.

"It's a very sad situation where a business can lose so many positions and jobs for folks without having the opportunities to stop the process," Wood said.

"We're seeing people who are saying, 'This is my opportunity to get advanced skills,' so they're going to go back to school and they're kind of excited about going back for welding or CNC machine operating," Wright said. "We're also seeing people say, 'Bills don't stop when the paycheck stops, so they are desperate to get back to work."

"In some cases they need to upgrade their skills," Branstad said in an interview after the event, "but the fact that they have a good work ethic and they've been reliable employees gives them a leg up, I think, in finding other employment."

The various classes' topics include resume and cover letter writing, mock interviews, English as a second language and pre-GED.

BPI's co-founders Regina and Eldon Roth were both in town for the meeting and expressed their support for the workers they laid off. The Roths declined to comment after the event.

Upper Iowa University in Waterloo will host a job fair for the laid off workers on June 6. 20 companies have committed to coming, and they are looking to hire.

On June 4, Hawkeye Community College will host an informational meeting and assessment testing for workers interested in the English as a Second Language (ESL) and pre-GED classes.

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