Inside a Layoff

The Journal also has an excellent front-page “ahed” today—a first-hand, real-time look at the layoffs that are swamping the economy.

The paper got remarkable access to a small Ohio tile manufacturer as it went through the process of slashing its workforce by a third. The result is a picture of what American workers are going through right now.

Huddled around half-century-old kilns for warmth, some workers masked their anxiety with nervous optimism. “I’ll go back to hang drywall,” said Dustin Bourne, a lanky 22-year-old, chatting with three high-school buddies. Of course, they all knew the truth: Mr. Bourne took a job here last year because drywall work had disappeared.

Rosanne Dangelo, a mother of two grown children, was stoic at the prospect of unemployment. “I’ll get by,” she said, then quipped, “I don’t need the Internet.”

Dangelo actually survived the layoffs because her seniority rank was a few spots above the cut.

There’s some great color, as well:

The 1970s and 1980s were glory days. The company employed 750 people at multiple plants. Traveling abroad, Mr. Johnson’s father noted that one European ceramic maker used a castle as its guesthouse, so when he returned to Ohio, he bought a small, 19th-century inn with five guest rooms near his own factory, the Spread Eagle Tavern.

“That was its historical name,” Mr. Johnson notes, somewhat emphatically. “Contrary to some people’s thinking, it was not a house of ill repute.”


The morning of the meeting, the temperature outside was four degrees. The factory is a drafty place, so people gathered near the kilns. Mr. Johnson set his bullhorn on a pile of tiles and delivered the grim news.

We need more stories like this.

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Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum.