Things were finally looking up for Dwayne Pendergraph after taking some tough licks.
Pendergraph, 32, and his wife, Darla, were back on their feet after losing their jobs in 2006 when the Carrier air cooling products plant, where they had worked for nearly 10 years, shut down and relocated from Morrison, Tenn., to Mexico — putting them and Darla’s father out of work.
Pendergraph, whose father had taken a severance package before his job at A.O. Smith in McMinville was outsourced to Mexico in 2003, went to work in a Mahle Tennex automobile parts plant in Murfreesboro feeding parts to robots for assembly.
We were like football players doing handoffs.
Darla got a job at a Rich Foods processing plant in Murfreesboro. Although they now drove 40 miles to work in different directions, they once again had two incomes coming in.
Then the automobile industry tanked. Pendergraph was laid off and called back. But the robots and three production lines were sent to Mexico in 2009.
He put in an application at Philips Luminaire’s lighting fixture plant in Sparta. “They had a good track record,” says Pendergraph, of the plant that opened in 1963 as Thomas Lighting and was designated one of the top 10 industrial plants in North America by Industry Week magazine in 2009. Hired at Philips, Pendergraph joined IBEW Local 2143 and a family of workers and managers whose long history of productive negotiations and steady improvements in productivity had assumed legendary status.
I work with a lot of good people who clock in on time every day and do a good job. When the boss comes down and needs something done, we do it.
After working at Philips for only a year, he already shared the pride in awards that the plant received for safety and efficiency.
Last October, Pendergraph’s luck ran out. Representatives of Netherlands-based Philips came in the front door of the plant, accompanied by security, announced that the facility would be shut down in 2012 and left through the back door.
Dragged down once again in the powerful undertow of a seemingly endless wave of U.S. manufacturing plants headed for Mexico, Pendergraph, who has two daughters, 16 and 5 years old, isn’t giving up hope that Philips’ decision can be reversed.
We’re trying to get our story out. American workers have had enough. We’re doing our damndest, but the carpet keeps getting pulled out from under us.
He encourages everyone to show their support for American jobs by signing the online petition to Philips CEO Gerard Kleisterlee telling him not to pull the plug on American jobs.
He also says supporters should like the "Keep the Lights on in Sparta" Facebook page.
Go to www.tellphilips.com for more information.