by Peter Freyne
Bachelor Pete was up and at ‘em early this snowy Sunday morning, just as the first flakes started falling over the Peoples Republic of Burlington. Headed for Greer’s on Dorset Street with a laundry load.
That’s where we had the pleasure of meeting Karen Stoodley, 41, of South Burlington. Karen had done the family wash (her and her husband Larry) at their nearby duplex, but their dryer had been busted for a while and they hadn’t been able to replace it.
Both are out of work. Lost their jobs when York Capacitor Corp. in Winooski closed a few months back. Moved the jobs to Mexico. Cheaper wages.
Karen had worked there for 18 years. Paid $10/hr. and got health care benefits. Met Larry there 16 years ago. They’ve both been looking for jobs for six months.
“There’s nothing up here,” said the Vermont native. “Nothing.”
So, in March they’re moving to Ruskin, Florida. Her parents are already down there and bought them a trailer. Finding work will be their challenge. “Hopefully,” she said, “we’ll find something better than up here.”
Karen, a friendly, gentle soul, has overcome many obstacles to even get this far. She told us she’d been in a serious car accident when she was five. Was in a coma for weeks. Lost the sight in her right eye. Has problems with short-term memory. It happened in Grande Isle where she grew up. Her father was driving. She thinks he was drunk at the time, since he was an alcoholic.
Karen came up the vocational rehabilitation route and graduated from Essex High School. She's a hard worker - wants to work - and loves to watch wrestling when she's not.
“You know, Bernie Sanders helped me,” said Karen. Bernie the independent congressman now senator. “He got me my disability,” she told us, “from social security. He pushed it through,” she said with a smile. “Bernie helps everybody.”
“I want to work. I must have at least 50 applications out there. My husband must have a least 50, too. He’s cashed out his retirement to pay the bills. It’s sad when you have to go out of state to find something,” said the Vermont native.
Wonder if the Karen Stoodleys of Vermont even make Gov. Jim Douglas’ “Vermont Moving Forward” radar screen?
In the last four years, the U.S. has lost 2.8 million manufacturing jobs - 10,000 in Vermont.