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Monday, Aug 15, 2022
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Companies Looking to Hire Laid-Off Workers

Companies are already expressing an interest in hiring workers who will be laid off when a Washington Mutual Inc. call center is closed in the coming months, a top economic official for the San Fernando Valley said. Since Washington Mutual’s announcement in mid-January of the job cuts, Economic Alliance of the San Fernando Valley President and Chief Executive Officer Bruce Ackerman said he has received phone calls from two companies in the San Gabriel Valley and a major insurance company in the San Fernando Valley interested in hiring some of the employees. “They are well trained,” Ackerman said of the call center workers. “They are going to be absorbed as quickly as they will be let go. That’s why we are not hitting the panic button.” Banking giant Washington Mutual is closing its Chatsworth call center resulting in the loss of 1,000 employees. Two weeks after that announcement, Superior Industries International said it would lay off 375 employees at its Van Nuys plant that manufactures automotive parts. But Ackerman and other Valley business and political officials say those layoffs are not indicative of any trend and they are confident of the area’s overall economic health. “It’s not panic time. It’s not even worry time,” Ackerman said. The Jan. 18 announcement by Washington Mutual was not unexpected as there had been talk for six to eight months the call center would be closed, Ackerman said. The banking firm is moving the jobs to San Antonio, Texas and Costa Rica in an attempt to cut costs. The positions will be phased out over the next two months. Seattle-based Washington Mutual is also cutting 64 full-time positions at a call center in South Carolina and transferring the positions to India. Los Angeles City Councilman Dennis Zine said that while it was disappointing that jobs will be lost in the Valley it was not a time to panic. Business layoffs and closures are cyclical in nature with other businesses ready to step in to fill a vacancy, Zine said. “Washington Mutual has been a long-standing representative here but on the other hand you have Wells Fargo bank on a run to open more branches in the Valley,” Zine said. Superior is letting go more than half of its manufacturing positions at the Van Nuys plant. The 125 corporate jobs at that location will not be affected. But like the call center employees, Ackerman said he does not expect the Superior workers to be at a loss to find new jobs. “The technology community will pick up those jobs in a heartbeat,” Ackerman said. The Superior cuts are an example of how companies have to compete on an international basis and not just national, Los Angeles City Councilman Alex Padilla said. “They are competing in a marketplace with Third World countries that don’t pay the wages we pay here and don’t offer the benefits we offer here,” Padilla said. Superior supplies aluminum wheels and other aluminum automotive components to more than a dozen automakers, including Ford and General Motors. Padilla said he has experienced job losses before, specifically in 1996 when bathroom and kitchen fixture manufacturer Price Pfister moved out of Pacoima, resulting in several hundred people being let go. But the city needs to take a proactive stance in attracting new business and retaining those already in the Valley, Padilla said. “We need to work with the business community to target physical plants for expansion or relocation,” Padilla said. “We need to identify niche markets and emerging technologies and leverage those.”

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