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Honeywell employees saddened by job loss

April 19, 1997

By LAURA ERNDE

Staff Writer

Ruth Bikle said Friday she doesn't have time to be depressed about losing her job at Honeywell Environmental Air Control in Hagerstown. She has two teenage sons to think about.

"I have high hopes for them to go to college, so mom can't stop to be depressed now," said Bikle, 39, who lives in Hancock.

Bikle and 124 other factory workers and administrators learned Thursday that Honeywell's plant at 100 Jamison Court will close June 17. Honeywell is transferring production of its Enviracaire portable air cleaners to its plant in Newburn, Tenn.

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"I kind of knew in my head that they would end up shutting down, but I hoped in my heart they wouldn't," said Sharon Owen, 35, of Smithsburg. "I understand it's a business decision, but it still hurts."

Owen said she doesn't know what kind of job she will get, but she has to find something to support her son, Bryan Dunlap, 16.

Emotions ranged from sadness to disappointment to anger at the plant on Friday.

"It's hard to let go," said Owen, an assembler who worked at Honeywell for 4 1/2 years.

Bikle, an assembler who has been at Honeywell since August 1993, has faced unemployment before.

Five years ago, she was laid off from Rohr Inc., where her fiance still works today. At that time, Bikle took advantage of a chance to learn medical terminology and computer technology, but she decided that career wasn't for her.

Bikle might go back to school to add more skills to her years of office and factory experience.

"As I've learned as I got older, nothing is permanent," she said. "I'm really open to learning new things and I give it my best. I look at it as a new adventure, I guess."

Still, Bikle said she had hoped her life would be more stable at this point.

Owen and Bikle said they will miss their jobs. Both were in charge of motivating their production lines to work as a team.

It's especially heartbreaking, Bikle said, because her team started working really well together the past few months.

Bikle inspects the finished air cleaners.

"Because I'm a consumer, I care about the quality of the product. If it's not good, it doesn't fly by me," Bikle said.

Few of the workers are expected to apply for jobs in Tennessee. Many women said they don't want to leave their families.

The women worry about getting jobs as good as the ones they're leaving.

At Honeywell, their 6:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. job allows them to be home to greet their children after school, make dinner for them and kiss them goodnight.

Their boss was willing to listen to their concerns, whether it was work-related or personal, they said.

The company was good to them, sponsoring a family picnic every summer and giving them small gifts throughout the year, like pocket flashlights and clock radios. One time, everyone got a Honeywell sweat jacket because they complained the building was cold.

"I've enjoyed working for Honeywell," Bikle said.

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