Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., has asked the president of Rite-Aid to reconsider his company’s decision to close its warehouse in Poca.
In a letter to John T. Standley, Rockefeller wrote, “I find this news even more troubling considering the efforts extended to save the distribution center years ago. I recall standing side by side with those employees in 1999 and will continue to do so today.”
If the warehouse closes, 257 people could lose their jobs by 2016.
Rockefeller said he understands the company “made this decision because of the age and condition of the Poca facility.” Rockefeller and state officials said they are willing to help the company to find and relocate to a new facility.
Raamie Barker, senior advisor to Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, said Thursday, “We are aware of this. [State Commerce Secretary] Keith Burdette’s office has a group of people working with Rite Aid to see what can be worked out.”
Barker said he has “nothing to say specifically about what has been done. But the administration is in contact with them to try to work something out. We are not ignoring it.”
Last Sunday, Teamsters Local 175 held a meeting about the possible closure at their hall in South Charleston.
Ken Hall, president of Local 175 and international secretary-treasurer of the Teamsters, said union negotiations broke down last week “when the company was unreceptive to the union’s proposals to improve productivity.
“We told them we could improve productivity by 20 to 30 percent,” Hall said during the meeting. “But I think they have intentionally decided to run this place into the ground.”
Ashley Flower, a Rite Aid spokeswoman, said Sunday closing the Poca warehouse “was a difficult decision to make, but a necessary one as Rite Aid continues to focus on improving operating efficiency in every area of the company, including our DC [distribution center] network.
“The capital required to upgrade and modernize this 35-year-old facility is cost prohibitive,” Flower said.
In his letter, Rockefeller stressed, “The permanent closure will be devastating to the employees at the [Poca] facility who will be faced with the agony and uncertainty of unemployment.
“Many of the employees have been there for 25 or more years — and several families have multiple family members working at the facility.”
In his letter, Rockefeller implored Standley to reconsider company plans to close the warehouse and urged him to “work with the State of West Virginia and my office to find a new, suitable location so that these employees can remain in West Virginia and on the job.”
Reach Paul J. Nyden at email@example.com or 304-348-5164.