Future Uncertain for Rockdale Residents After Major Layoff

By: Kristen Ross Email
By: Kristen Ross Email

Unemployment is on the rise in the state, and it's beginning to effect those close to home.

In May, Texas jumped to a 4.5 percent jobless rate, up from April. Now roughly 250 area residents will find themselves unemployed, as jobs at a major local company are put on the chopping block.

Friday morning, Rockdale residents were trying to figure out how they're going to get by.

"Pay the bills and being able to put food on the table is going to be hard," Rockdale resident Rhonda Johnson said.

Johnson puts food on other people's tables everyday at the Kountry Inn, but now she's worried about being able to put it on her own. Her husband works for Alcoa.

"We have two kids in college so that's going to affect them as far as helping them out. We have a mortgage, car payments, and loans," Johnson said.

Johnson now has one more added weight on her shoulders, the possibility that her husband could be one of the roughly 250 people to be laid off by Alcoa, the town's Aluminum smelter.

"Rockdale would shut down too," Rhonda said. "Alcoa keeps Rockdale going."

The plant just recently announced its plans to cut production at the plant in half. Leaving a couple hundred people without a job or a paycheck.

A spokesman for the company says it's the only way they could make ends meet.

"The cost of power is really important in the cost of producing aluminum, and recently in Central Texas the prices have gone up a lot," Alcoa Spokesman Jim Hodson said.

The company says it will temporarily shut down three of the plants' six potlines.

News of the company's cuts travelled fast around town.

"It's terrible. I hate to think about the young people who bought homes, cars, or have children at home. I don't know how they're going to make it," one Rockdale resident said.

Especially in a town, where many residents depend on the plant for their livelihood.

"Alcoa is Rockdale," one local woman said.

Alcoa says anyone who is affected by the lay-off will be given 60 days notice. Seniority will play a factor in the cuts, but the company says all departments and employees could be affected.

The company adds that if their energy costs go down and they are able to restart production on the three potlines being shut down, they will call those who were laid off and offer them their job back.

Meanwhile, the Texas Workforce Commission in Killeen says it is ready to help those who will be affected by the layoffs, but they say Alcoa first has to notify them of the scale back.

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