More than 700 workers from the Electrolux plant in Webster City spent the day reflecting on the past year. Saturday marks one year since the manufacturing plant closed its doors for good.
“I don't miss Electrolux I really don't,” says former worker Rich Ayers.
Ayers says he's a much happier person since he was let go from Electrolux last year.
However, it took the Webster City native a long time to feel good about the parting.
“I kind of got into a routine there. I figured out there's another life outside Electrolux.”
Rich and his wife Kelly worked at Electrolux for more than fifty years. They decided they would seize the opportunity and go back to school.
“I'm onto a new life. It's different but I'm enjoying it. It's a big change going back to school at my age,” says Kelly Ayers.
All Electrolux employees received a severance package from the Webster City plant included money for college classes. The Ayers says it was quite a shock entering the classroom with kids half their age
“When I first started I was really nervous and kind of scared because at my age it's like, what am I doing, why am I doing this?”
Rich wants to be a welder and Kelly is getting a certification to be an administrative specialist. Both enjoy the change of pace.
“I feel so much happier. My body doesn't ache anymore and there's no stress. I'm more relaxed,” says Kelly.
But some former Electrolux employees say they still feel betrayed and abandoned by the company, who up and moved to Mexico.
“I know what it's all about the mighty dollar and there’s nothing you can really do about it,” says Joe Casey.
For some that chose not to go back to school, it took months to find a job. Hamilton County's unemployment rate in February stood at 9%. That's 42% higher than the state average. Kelli and Rich are banking that their education will land them a better job.
“There are days. It has its ups and downs but I think the bottom line is that I'm enjoying myself,” says Kelly.
Enjoying, and learning that new isn't always scary.
“I figured out I can actually go back to school. I'm not quite as dumb as I thought I was,” says Rich.
“I think it's been a blessing in disguise for a lot of us,” says Kelly.
Many former employees are joining together in a class action lawsuit. They're demanding back pay for time spent putting on protective equipment before their shifts.
A U.S. district judge has ordered the appliance maker to hand over names and addresses of former employees so they can be notified of their chance to join the case.