Hard to find work for former Pillowtex employee

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Hugh Fisher
When Vida Hammond immigrated to the United States from Ghana, she found work at what was then Fieldcrest-Cannon in Kannapolis.
When she and her husband divorced, she found comfort in her co-workers.
And when the mill closed, she stayed close to the new family she had created through her church, Midway United Methodist, and her former colleagues.
But things have not been the same since Pillowtex shut down.
After going to work at Plant 1 in 1993, Hammond worked in a number of positions within the mill, including sewing and inspecting product.
Hammond said that the closure of the plant did not come as a surprise.
“They had started talking about the lack of work,” Hammond said. “We knew the company was in danger.”
When the plant closed five years ago, Hammond had to overcome additional obstacles in looking for work.
She can speak English well, but she has trouble hearing, so she had trouble absorbing everything that was told to Pillowtex workers at information sessions.
She relied on friends who attended sessions in the morning to tell her what went on. That way, Hammond said, when she attended evening sessions she could follow what was being said.
From her apartment within sight of the North Carolina Research Campus, Hammond said she does not know what will take the place of her former employer.
“The laboratories there are not like the factory,” she said. “There used to be thousands of jobs on three shifts. I know that (the Research Campus) won’t have that many jobs.”
Hammond has struggled to find work since the plant closure. “It’s tough to find work with my qualifications.”
She is a skilled seamstress, but works only occasionally, she said, and “only for friends or people who know that I can sew. It’s good for a few dollars but it’s not really a job.”
Nowadays, Hammond relies on help from her family, friends and church to keep going.
Inside her apartment, she keeps pictures of her family in Ghana, including a grandson she’s never seen in person.
She has family elsewhere in the United States, but she said that Kannapolis is the city that feels most like home to her.
“What can I say? Kannapolis was the first place I came to,” Hammond said. “This is what I know.”