Union of Joy info center lends support for workers

Rick McParland of Oil City was inquiring about what is still available to him at the information center for Union of Joy displaced workers. (Photo by Richard Sayer)

Joy Global employees, current and former, wandered in and out of the Union of Joy information center Wednesday offering questions and getting answers.

The information center served as a nexus at the 18th annual Oil Region Job/Career Fair held at the Cranberry Mall. Formed as a transition team for laid off Joy Global employees, the Union of Joy has grown into a group that seeks to help all dislocated workers in the area.

And at what better place than a job fair?

Organizers of the information center said they couldn’t count the myriad quesions.

“Training, going to school, finances, Re-employment Training Assistance, those are just the top of the list,” said Beverly Rapp, who represented the Department of Labor.

Union of Joy organizers had eight tables set up, seven of them staffed with various specialists and one for a bank of computers for people to use. Among the tables, there was finance, health care, children’s health care and counseling services.

Dave Hall, representating the Joy Global union, was talking to Rick McParland about job options. Each was a good example of the cirmstances of being laid off and looking for new work. Hall was laid off for most of the 1980s and McParland was laid off in 2013.

“A lot of people have questions about their 401(k),” Hall said. He was able to refer those workers to a nearby finance expert. But he could offer advice about what not to do.

“Don’t cash it out,” he said.

McParland of Oil City took advance of the Trade Adjustment Act that covered earlier Joy layoffs and returned to school. He’s graduating from Clarion University in May with a Bachelor of Science degree.

He said it’s been hard to find work, but he has a number of skills he’s learned at Joy Global and in school. He hopes a life filled with hard work, and his 3.9 grade point average, will help him as long as he’s persistent.

At the next table, Donna Rapp of Edward Jones was giving advice to people on financial planning. The issue there is the planning has to be on an individual basis, so she said it’s key for each of the dislocated workers to find a financial planner.

“It’s situational, from person to person,” she said. “But the key is setting goals and objectives.

“They ask, ‘What should I do?’ but there are consequences for every action. There are taxes, age, penalties, all kinds of things.”

At yet another table, dislocated workers could get information about insurance for themselves and their children. Jennifer Morris, of Franklin Insurance Agency said navigating the world of insurance was no easier than the finance world, but she was able to show people what postential costs could be; she noted it was important for parents to be aware of CHIP, the Children’s Health Insurance Program through Medicaid.

Finally the key takeaway, according to Janet Gatesman of CareerLink and Lance Hummer, co-founder of Union of Joy, is that all dislocated workers need to get to CareerLink and get a case manager.

People do not need to be intimidated by the process.

“We’re really nice people,” Gatesman said. “You’ll be greeted with a smile.”