Three of Pontotoc's largest furniture manufacturing plants, Behold Washington, Southern Motion, and American Furniture posted Facebook notices that they are suspending operations because of the coronavirus.
The following is some of the information posted by the three companies concerning actions they are taking.
Behold Washington: March 22nd, 2020
Dear Behold Washington Team,
After much consideration, prayer and listening to the experts on how best to control the spread of the COVID-19 virus and consultations with our board of directors, I made a recommendation and we have decided to cease operations at all of our manufacturing, shipping, administration and support facilities. This shutdown will go into effect immediately and remain in effect until Friday, March 27th. We will reevaluate the situation on a daily basis and communicate when we will re-open through our Facebook page and local news outlets. We are in the process of establishing a team that will be working to communicate with our employees and customers. We will distribute next week’s pay in an orderly and well communicated manner. Those who have direct deposit will not have to show up to receive their checks.
My view is that it is only a matter of time before one or multiple cases are diagnosed in our workforce. We currently have several employees who have been tested and are awaiting results and some experiencing symptoms of the COVID-19 virus. Our company leadership can’t sit idly by and wait for the results. In my view, we have a responsibility to each of our valued employees and we have a responsibility to the larger communities in which we live to prevent the spread of this highly contagious virus. We have to stem the spread and social distancing and a proactive work stoppage of non-essential industry is the best and only path at this point. Several local companies have positive cases now being reported and have initiated work stoppages. Instead of waiting for a positive case, we are going to act in a proactive and responsible manner.
Our federal government is negotiating a relief package. Part of those ongoing negotiations is an enhanced unemployment package that will be implemented to further help each of you and your families. I will communicate more as our corporate plan is implemented and as the State’s and Federal Government’s plan and intentions become clearer. I know how important each of your jobs and paychecks are and I know that everyone needs money for living expenses. We will proactively communicate with each of you on your pay and what benefits the government will be offering.
These are unprecedented decisions that are having to be made. As we discussed this decision, I am reminded that good outcomes, growth, the future of our business and the overall success of our company will always be linked back and directly related to difficult decisions we made. Nothing good comes easy. We have an incredible company of battle tested employees that will rally to the cause we now face. There is no doubt that the ultimate outcome will be a strengthening of our company because we made the tough decisions. In every decision we make, we take into account the safety and consideration of our most valuable asset- you, the Behold Washington team member. We believe that by sticking to that principle that we will continue our growth and success as a company. This virus will pass and when it does, we will resume operations and continually become a stronger and more dominant force in the industry.
God Bless you, our company and our United States of America,
As you and your families have experienced at work and in your daily lives, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact in a very short period of time. Our customers have faced similar impacts across the country ranging from mandated closures, reduced work hours, and slower retail foot traffic. While we have started to see reduced market demand related lo this pandemic, we are more concerned about its effect on the health of our associates.
Over the weekend we were notified of a confirmed COVID-19 case at a Fusion Furniture facility (Plant 1 sewing) and a confirmed exposure case at a Southern Motion facility (Plant 2 receiving). As a result, we suspended activities across all Southern Furniture Industries· (SFI) (Southern Motion. Inc. and Fusion Furn ure. Inc.) locations to fully assess the situation as a leadership team.
After consulting with theMississpi pi Department of Health and continuing to follow the guidance of the U. S. Centers for Disease Control, SFI has decided to temporarily suspend manufacturing activities at all facilities until al least April 3. 2020. This action Is being taken to help ensure the health and safety of our employees during this rapidly evolving public health crisis.
For our salaried associates, our offices and facilities will reopen beginning tomorrow. Tuesday, M arch 24, 2020. However. we are encouraging social distancing, proper hygiene practices, and working from home where possible. Specific information for each department will be provided by your manager on Tuesday.
While temporarily closing our operations is a tough decision and was not taken lightly, we believe this action is prudent to protect you, your families and the community. The safety and security of our associates, partners and community are a top priority and we will continue to monitor the situation and adjust as needed. Future updates to our associates will be provided through our text alert notification system, email and various social media postings.
We realize this will be an unexpected financial hardship for many. To lessen the burden during this temporary shutdown, SFI will pay your insurance premiums, which are normally withheld from your wages. We will also be providing information how to obtain State of Mississippi Unemployment Compensation assistance during this period. For those Southern Motion employees without direct deposit, paychecks will be available for pickup on Thursday, March 26, 2020 between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. at Southern Motion Plant I or Plant 2 in the case of Baldwyn associates. All direct deposits will occur as normal for all other employees.
Our thoughts and prayers are with all our Southern Furniture Industries associates and families."
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to change the way your and your family approach both your work and home lives. American Furniture continues to review the latest information hourly and to adjust our plans accordingly.
Our customers have faced similar challenges with reduced traffic in their stores and state mandated closures. Our first priority is the health and well being of our nearly 500 employees.
With the goal of providing a safe and heal thy work place we announce the following actions:
After reviewing the guidance of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, and taking into account the directives of various l ocal government bodies, AFM has decided to immediately temporarily suspend
manufacturing activities at all facilities until at least Sunday March 29. After that, a decision will be made weekly by Thursday evening and communicated by Facebook concern ing the next work week.
Our goal, when safe to resume, will be to get all associates back to work earning full paychecks. Office employees and salaried employees should consult with your manager about work schedules and work from home processes during the shutdown period.
While temporarily closing our operation is a hard decision, we believe it is the prudent decision to protect you, your family, and the Pontotoc community. We understand that many of you are concerned about paying your bills during thi s time. AFM is com mitt ed to continuing medical/ den tal coverage for covered associates thru April 30, 2020.
We are providing to all associates an information help letter expl aining how to apply for temporary layoff unemployment assistance online. Checks for last week' s pay will be distributed on Friday, March 27th at 9:00 a.m. Please follow signs on that morning as we anticipate a "drive-thru” style distribution of checks to assure everyone’s health and safety.
AFM has faced many hurdles in the past and through the continued hard work and support of each of you, we wi ll be successful in the future.