CITY BEAT: COMMUNITY STEPS UP TO HELP AKORN’S BETRAYED EMPLOYEES
Last week’s shoddy announcement and shutdown of Akorn’s Decatur facilities, and all other United States operations — and the way over 400 local employees were given the boot — was downright disgusting. While the news of closing down was bad enough, the shock of the announcement was compounded by the apparent lack of concern with throwing their employees into immediate difficult financial circumstances.
I’ve been publisher of this newspaper for a long time and I’ve never seen a company betray its employees in such a sickening fashion. Basically, the employees were told at a morning meeting that they were on their own to find ways to feed their families, pay rent or mortgages, utility bills, insurance protection etc.
However, it’s been inspiring to see how this community has responded in offering help to the former Akorn employees and their families. Within a few hours of that devastating announcement to unsuspecting employees, Decaturites, businesses, organizations, colleges and about everybody else stepped up to lend a hand and offer opportunities to those who had their lives so dramatically impacted.
I can’t ever remember a time when this community had so many tools available to help people and the personnel to know how to use those tools effectively. It is one thing to express a desire to help people overcome a serious setback in life — and another to do something about it. Although the kindness and help shown those 400 former Akorn workers is refreshing to see, they will never be able to return to the jobs they held for years at that company.
Hopefully, the dark hours of the past week will translate into something positive in the future for all of them and their families. This community is dedicated to making that happen. When hundreds of our fellow Decatur and Central Illinoisans are placed in difficult circumstances, they don’t stand alone. We stand with them and will continue to help them walk in the employment light again — stronger and better than before. I’m proud of this community’s response to challenges because it speaks to the quality of caring people we have living here.
• OUTRAGE! — Mayor Julie Moore Wolfe and I have been friends for a long time and I don’t think I’ve ever seen her as mad as she was last week when Akorn shocked the community with its announcement and she had not been given a heads up that it was coming! Plus, she was especially upset about the way the company left its employees hanging in the wind with no support.
After receiving a way-too-late communication from Akorn about the closing, Moore Wolfe responded with: “Frankly, this is not good enough at all. We have resources we could have offered your workers, but since you gave absolutely no notice to us, we could not even provide the basics to your former employees. The way Akorn handled this is nothing short of shameful. We will do everything possible to help your colleagues that your company abandoned.”
Amen to that!
• MORE HELP — The Illinois Department of Corrections hosted a Hiring Event at Richland Community College yesterday (Feb. 28). IDOC’s Confidential Assistant to the Director, She-lith W. Hansbro, and a longtime advocate for De-catur in various ways, and a Decatur Park District Com-missioner, sent the following information to the media: “Please join us in Decatur at Richland Community College for the very first walk up hiring event. No need to register beforehand. We look forward to seeing you there. It’s open to the public including those who were affected by the AKORN closure. Expecially those affected! This is our response to assisting the community.” As I mentioned, Decatur and Central Illinois really want to provide opportunities and help to the laid off workers at Akorn.
• MORE HELP — Another of so many examples of local people and organizations reaching out to the laid off workers came from the Decatur Park District last week. An offer stated: “Due to the closure of a large plant impacting a significant amount of Decatur community members, the Decatur Indoor Sports Center will be offering full facility individual memberships for employees of Akorn Pharmaceuticals free of charge from now through April 30th. “A recent pay stub or employee badge from Akorn Pharmaceuticals should be presented. Memberships can be obtained at the DISC, 1295 W. Wood Street.
• CONGRESSWOMAN Nikki Budzinski released the following statement on the surprise closure of Akorn Pharmaceuticals in Decatur. “I’m outraged by the surprise an- nouncement that Akorn Pharmaceuti-cals is closing their plant in Decatur and shutting down all U.S. operations. “I came to Con-gress to stand up for working people throughout our communities, and that’s exactly what I intend to do for the folks left with no job, no severance, only days left with health care coverage and no time to prepare for next steps. “I’ve been in contact with Decatur Mayor Julie Moore Wolfe to offer assistance – and my team and I are standing by to help in any way we can. My team has also been in touch with the State’s Rapid Response Team for the Central Work-force Development Region, as well as the Macon-Dewitt Workforce Investment Board.”
• MACON County Clerk Josh Tanner sent me a note about reminding our readers there is a need for election judges.
“We sent letters out to those who have been judges before and many have not responded,” Josh wrote. “Additionally we can always use new judges because some of the current pool leave the area or are unable to work. The short list of requirements is: • Be registered to vote • Take a 2 hour class • Help set the polling place up prior to Election Day • Work Election Day 5:00 am to approximately 9:00 pm “Those who want to serve as an election judge can call 217-424-1308 to get more information and sign up.”
Let Josh know if you can serve as an election judge. It’s something you can do to be more involved in supporting our form of government. Josh does a super job running the county clerk’s office and also handling the responsibilities involved in holding an election.
• INTEREST seems to be building in the race for the Decatur School Board as early voting is underway and we move towards the General Consolidated Election Day April 4th. Six candidates are left who are running for the three seats up for election on the Decatur School Board They are Bill Clevenger, Will Wetzel, Jacob Jenkins, Mark Reynolds, Misty Fronk and Hannah Wolfe. (Datrice Weathers and Jalynn Walker have pulled out of the race.)
Ads for some of the candidates are currently running elsewhere in this week’s print and online editions. We will print the specimen ballots and other info later this month. The three propositions that will be on the ballot are at the bottom of page 23 in this week’s print and online editions. Check them out because it is easy to sometimes overlook what impact those propositions can have on residents.
• I JOIN Brian Byers on WSOY’s Byers & Co. every Thursday morning at 7:00, for the City Hall Insider. I always enjoy our conversations.