National Pen lays off most employees

Wednesday, April 1, 2020
Employees of National Pen Corporation are told of immediate permanent layoffs Wednesday.
Submitted photo

Most employees of the National Pen Corporation plant in Shelbyville were notified Tuesday they were permanently laid off effective immediately.

Management had not responded to a request for comment by the Times-Gazette on Wednesday.

According to the Shelbyville - Bedford County Chamber of Commerce, National Pen is the 4th largest local employer. The company employs 500 people.

Local managers met with employees Tuesday afternoon and, according to several people present, read from a letter sent to the Shelbyville office by higher-level executives. No copies of the letter were distributed, employees said.

‘Shocked’

“There are about 20 CRMs (customer representative managers) still working there,” Jenny Miller, a CRM, said Wednesday. “Most of production is gone as well; 165 people were laid off. They are keeping for now the large accounts at this location.”

“I was shocked by the meeting we had,” Vickey Adcock said. “Everyone was expecting to close for a week or two. No one saw this coming. We were sent home as soon as they told us with our permanent layoff forms in hand.”

Adcock had been a CRM since last September.

Employees were told of the shutdown in department meetings Tuesday, Adcock said.

Reasons given

“They said due to everything going on in the world, they were having to shut the plant. All customer representative jobs will be moved to a call center in Jamaica and production to Mexico,” Adcock said,

The COVID-19 pandemic severely impacted the company’s ability to remain in business, according to the letter read to employees at the meeting, Tommy Lee of the customer representative department said.

“As we left they had a table set up with separation notices,” Lee said. “The notices said they were ‘permanent’ due to ‘lack of work.’”

“They were not concerned for our health at the moment of announcement,” Miller said. “We were all combined together in a group setting. We formed very close lines to get out termination papers.”

‘Cruel’: Ex-worker

“With so many people losing our jobs to shift what jobs there are out of the country due to the virus is appalling,” Adcock said. “I do understand they lost 70 percent of their revenue but this is just cruel to those of us with families to support.”

Some workers questioned the “lack of work” statement, asking why if there wasn’t enough work the jobs were moved instead of eliminated entirely.

The company had announced a “restructuring” affecting 59 jobs at the Shelbyville plant in January with a transition period starting in March.

National Pen has operated in Shelbyville for more than 50 years manufacturing imprinted promotional items.