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Job losses at Creekside Mushrooms called 'pretty permanent'

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Saturday, Feb. 6, 2010

More than 300 workers that have been laid off from Creekside Mushrooms, Inc. in West Franklin will probably not be getting their jobs back, company president Dan Lucovich says.

"They're pretty permanent," he said of the layoffs that began in December.

Letters were sent to employees in November notifying them of the layoffs, citing an unstable economy, decreased consumer demand, increased competition and the loss of major customers.

Creekside is the only underground mushroom farm in the United States.

Less than 30 employees remain at Creekside, Lucovich said, including administration and workers. The company is restrategizing, he said, to determine how it can maintain operations.

The bulk of the layoffs were mushroom harvesters, who use hard hats and mining lights to pick mushrooms in the 150 miles of underground tunnels 350 feet below the ground.

Between 300 and 400 employees worked at the farm as of November.

Help for laid-off workers

The U.S. Department of Labor announced Thursday that former Creekside workers are eligible to apply for trade adjustment assistance.

Workers will be contacted by the state with instructions on how to apply for benefits and services.

Workers who apply for the assistance could receive case management and re-employment services, job training and income support. Some workers may be eligible for job search and relocation allowances and a tax credit for health coverage.

Workers 50 and older may elect to receive re-employment trade adjustment assistance, which could result in payments of 50 percent of the difference between old and new wages, if income guidelines are met. Job training and health coverage is available.

"The U.S. Department of Labor is committed to supporting all workers, including those who are impacted by trade," said Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis. "Through the trade adjustment assistance program, we are leveraging opportunities for displaced workers to acquire the skills needed to secure good jobs in promising areas of their local economies."

Creekside produces white button mushrooms under the Moonlight Mushrooms label, and grows crimini, shiitake, enoki, portabella and oyster mushrooms.

Creekside Mushrooms began operating at the facility after the original company, Moonlight Mushrooms, went out of business in the early 1990s. The company bought the Moonlight name and continued to market mushrooms under that brand.

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