Rheem Manufacturing To Lay Off 180

Company to lay off 180 workers in Fort Smith, Ark., because orders have dropped, but says the workers may be called back when the economy improves.

FORT SMITH, Ark. (AP) -- The Rheem Manufacturing Co. plant in Fort Smith is to lay off 180 workers this week because orders have dropped. The company says the workers may be called back when the economy improves.

Workers are to be told Thursday which of them will be sent home. The air conditioner plant has about 1,500 workers, according to the Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Rheem spokesman Gary Hale said employees from almost every segment of the factory will be affected.

Workers expressed concern about how current economic woes will affect the future.

"It's scary, you know? Because a lot of our jobs are disappearing. You gotta pay your bills somehow," Rheem worker Tessa Davis told Fort Smith television station KFSM.

Davis, who has worked at Rheem for three years, says her job has already been posted, so she feels sure she'll be among those without a job at the end of the week. She says other workers, even those keeping their jobs, are wondering if this could be a sign of things to come.

"They're worried the plant's going to shut down and there's not going to be jobs for any of them," Davis said.

Rheem has opened a plant in Mexico but officials said Monday they are not moving jobs out of Fort Smith to Mexico, and that the layoffs are strictly due to economic pressure.

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