Dan Peterson has worked at Monaco Coach Corp. in Coburg, Ore., the past 9½ years. But he’s spent the last 2½ months at home, in limbo, waiting for the RV factory to resume production.
The Register-Guard reported that he and his wife, who lost her job last month, have been scraping by, cutting their household budget and surviving on unemployment checks while waiting out a furlough that began in early December.
“It’s kind of harsh,” Peterson said. “It’s hard, worrying about losing the house. Everybody says God provides. Hopefully.”
Peterson, 35, is among about 2,200 Monaco employees — and about 500 workers at Country Coach LLC in Junction City — who have been out of work since early December or before, while they wait to be either called back to work or, perhaps, permanently laid off. Historically, the factories are idle for about two weeks every December. But this time those holiday furloughs, which amount to temporary layoffs, turned into indefinite layoffs as the factories remained closed in the face of brutal market conditions.
This week, Monaco told employees it would resume production next Monday (March 1), but how quickly employees are brought back to work, and how many, is unclear. A recorded message on an employee hot line said the company would “selectively recall” employees starting Monday, and that production gradually would be ramped up, with additional employees called back as sales volumes increase.
According to the Register-Guard, a company spokesman did not return phone messages seeking comment on Monday and Tuesday.
Battered by a withering economic downturn, the RV makers are struggling to stay in business. Monaco may get kicked off the New York Stock Exchange unless its stock, trading at historically low prices, starts to increase in price. And an Oklahoma hedge fund has bought up 15% of the company’s stock, in what analysts say could be a precursor to a hostile takeover bid.
Privately held Country Coach, meanwhile, has said it could close for good as early as Saturday unless it can obtain outside investment. A major creditor, Wells Fargo, has aggressively been trying to seize company assets after the company defaulted on an $8.5 million loan balance. Its majority owner, acting as a creditor, has filed a petition to put the company into involuntary bankruptcy.
Caught in the fallout are the workers, many of whom had come to rely on the RV makers for family wage jobs and benefits.
Les Gilbertson, 54, of Elmira has worked at Country Coach for 25 years, where he installed solid-surface countertops in the luxury motor coaches.
“It’s been a really rough road,” he said.
He said he hopes the RV industry can get back in gear, but isn’t sure it will happen.
“I’m trying to keep a positive attitude that it will get back, but in the back of my mind I have a feeling it’s not going to,” he said. “If the RV industry doesn’t get back, what else is there for workers like us and at Monaco and Marathon? What is everybody going to do? Where are these people going to go?”