As Plainfield School Board grapples with how to use its $5.7 million surplus - maybe they should read this article written by Bob Okon.
The board has to decide between saving jobs for one year or paying off debt. They are looking at cutting about 112 jobs and using the $5.7 million toward paying off a $11.8 million loan they took out to buy land for three schools.
Herald-News Reporter Okon showed that finding a job isn't easy.
By Bob Okon
JOLIET - Nearly 1,100 people applied for 50 full-time jobs offered Wednesday at the Central Grocers distribution center.
In a bad economy, Central Grocers is growing -- but not fast enough to accommodate the demand for good, full-time jobs.
The lines outside the company warehouse and corporate offices in the Joliet section of the Cherry Hill Business Park showed how strong a demand there is for the kind of work Central Grocers has to offer: union jobs, full-time, wages that go beyond $20 an hour; and benefits many people aren't finding in the search for work these days.
"Here they have health benefits and a pension," said Clifton Scott of Joliet. "I never had a job that could do that for me."
Scott, 23, has been working in the logistics business for four years, always through temporary agencies that place him in jobs but don't offer him long-term employment.
Others in the long lines were in the same predicament.
At least Scott is working. Mark Yurcisin of Joliet has been out of work for 14 months. Before then, he said, he'd been working through temporary service companies.
"My resume looks horrible because of temporary positions," Yurcisin said. "It makes me look like a job hopper, but I'm not."
Yurcisin like others in line said he'd love to have a steady, full-time job.
"I've been on unemployment for over a year," said Thomas Murphy of Palos Hills, who had been making good money as a sprinkler fitter before the construction business fell flat. Looking for full-time work, Murphy said most jobs on the market now are "part-time, low pay -- $9.50 an hour or minimum wage. Minimum wage is not going to help me pay my rent."
Central Grocers has been growing amid a weak economy in part because it has taken over business from Certified Grocers, another food distributor that formerly supplied independent grocers in the Chicago area.
The Joliet facility opened in 2009 and provided Central Grocers with more storage space, Chief Executive James Denges said.
"We've had to staff up," Denges said. "We've had an influx of new business since coming to Joliet."
Central Grocers brought 450 jobs from its former operation in Franklin Park. The Joliet facility, which includes the corporate headquarters, had already added jobs since moving and will employ more than 600 after the new workers are hired.
The company does not employ temporary workers in the warehouse.
The contract between Central Grocers and the Teamsters forbids the use of temp workers, and Denges said it would be difficult to conduct the business with a constantly changing workforce.
Packing the food with care is important. At the same time, order pickers are required to keep up a steady pace of work.
"There's actually an art to building pallets, doing stacking," Denges said. "You learn it. If we had new people every day, we'd have problems."
Central Grocers ships more than a million cases of groceries, meat and produce to 375 independent retailers, primarily in the Chicago region and northern Indiana. The company also supplies some stores in Milwaukee and Iowa and is developing new business in Michigan.
The Joliet facility was designed with an eye toward expansion.
"This building has the potential to do a lot more business," Denges said. "I could probably do 40 percent more business here without a problem."
Central Grocers expanded its meat and produce capacity in the Joliet facility.
The warehouse also features 10 "banana rooms," each capable of holding 2,000 cases of bananas so they can ripen before being sent to stores.
Another interesting feature of the Joliet facility is its use of hydrogen-powered warehouse vehicles. It's the largest hydrogen-powered distribution facility in the world, Denges said.
Work there isn't easy.
Even in this job market, Denges expects that he eventually will have to hire 100 people to fill the 50 jobs, because half of those hired won't stay.
"It's tough work," he said. "Most likely they'll be working in a refrigerated part of the building."
Arriving applicants were handed job descriptions outlining some of the rigors of the job of an order picker, which include working in refrigerated sections of the warehouse that will be as cold as 20 degrees below zero.
Order pickers have to lift loads as heavy as 90 pounds. Before anyone is hired, their ability to lift heavy loads is tested with a physical therapist present.
Workers start at $10 an hour for the first 30 days, and then wages go to $16 an hour. Pay rises to $22 an hour after 16 months.
Finding 50 workers wouldn't be hard among the hundreds who showed up Wednesday.
"It's no problem," Yurcisin said of the cold temperatures and heavy loads. "I've been working in warehousing since I was 13 or 14. My dad got me in."
What's hard, he said, is being unemployed.
"I'd much rather be at work," he said, "making money and doing the things I need to do."