Hundreds line up for Gildan job openings

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 13, 2013

SALISBURY — As the temperature fell and winds blew through the parking lot, hundreds of people lined up Tuesday afternoon to apply for jobs at Gildan.
The company held a “Job Fair” Tuesday, looking to fill roughly 170 positions over the next six months at its yarn-spinning plant off Heilig Road.
“It would mean everything to me,” Patience Joaquim said, explaining that she had two children to support. “I need a job.”
Joaquim has been out of work since June 1, 2012. What’s it like trying to land a full-time job in this region?
“It looks just like this right here,” Joaquim said, nodding down the long lines of people ahead of her and behind her.
The plant, a former location for PGT, is in its first phase of hiring and retrofitting a 400,000-square-foot facility that used to make windows.
For the Salisbury job fair, Gildan advertised positions for material handlers and spinning, carding, drawing and roving operators.
The job fair was supposed to last five hours.
“I’d love to have another textile job,” said 37-year-old Michael Snyder, who has worked in the past for firms such as Cone Mills, Cannon Mills and N.C. Finishing Co.
Snyder has been out of work since Oct. 1 when he lost his environmental services position at Novant Health Rowan Medical Center.
He has three children, child-support payments and a $380-a-month car payment. He is living with his parents.
“I don’t have much choice,” he said.
Company representatives went down the long lines of people waiting outside and handed each person a pen, application form and a manila folder to write on while they waited to reach the front door.
Temperatures during the afternoon dipped below 50 degrees.
Gildan is a leading supplier of branded basic apparel such as T-shirts, fleece, sport shirts, socks and underwear.
The textile company’s first-phase in Rowan County represents a $50 million investment over 2013-14.
In October, Gildan announced plans to open a second facility in Rowan County — a 500,000-square-foot plant near the present one — that will hire an additional 184 people by mid 2015 and represent a $127 miilion investment.
Naomi Ferguson said she has been working a kitchen job at a nursing home since the Merita Bread Store in Lexington closed last November. She had been employed at the store for 16 years.
“We lost everything,” she said of the company’s closing and taking her job and the four weeks of vacation and severance pay she was supposed to receive.
The store’s manager, who had worked there 22 years, found herself in the same boat.
Meanwhile, Ferguson expressed the frustration of many in the line when she said she has managed only one face-to-face job interview in a year.
A neighbor in Linwood gave her a flyer that told about Tuesday’s job fair at Gildan.
Shekerra Roseborough described her job search as “busting her behind, looking.”
“It’s hard right now,” said Roseborough, who used to work for Apple Baking. “… I’ve got to get my finances in order.”
Theresa Coleman, 49, had a two-page list of her former employees to give anyone who was interested.
She has worked, for example, as a machine operator at Boral Composites, Mueller Systems and Magna. She was an assembler at Freightliner before being laid off and a production worker at Agvol America.
Coleman earned a two-year degree at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College and is a certified crane operator, among other talents.
But she lost her temporary job at Boral Composites when the plant in East Spencer eliminated its third shift.
Now with a husband on disability and their 13-year-old son in school and hoping to attend college some day, Coleman said it’s up to her as the head of the household to find a good-paying job.
Gildan said in announcing its plans for a second plant that the average wage per year at the plant would be $32,279.
With a full-time, decent-paying job, Coleman said, she feels as though she could make a contribution to the county, state and country by helping other people.
“I want a job for Christmas,” she said.
Joaquim, 35, also has moved back in with her parents. She said she has 10 nieces and nephews, and five are looking for jobs.
Joaquim last worked as a manager for Little Caesar’s pizza, but she has textile experience, having worked three years for China Grove Textiles before it closed.
“I’m apt to do anything,” Joaquim said. “I’m not a weak woman, as long as you train me.”

Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.