WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Former Maytag Plant Workers Reunited

Oct 1, 2014

Ten years is a long time.

Ten years is how long it's been since the Maytag plant in Galesburg produced its last refrigerator. The factory's jobs were moved to Mexico in September, 2004.

Signs still show the property and building that housed the Maytag plant in Galesburg for sale.
Credit T.J. Carson

Thousands worked at the factory, but today it’s quiet and empty.  Concrete road blocks, chain link fences, and padlocks guard the entrances.  Weeds grow like a jungle in the truck loading area.

The only thing that remains alive about the facility are the people who worked there, and nearly 200 of them came together at Lake Storey for a 10 year reunion.

The workers were part of thousands that were employed at the Maytag plant at one time.
Credit T.J. Carson

Helen Peterson worked at the factory for 32 years as a forklift driver.  She was there the day it was shut down. She traveled to Galesburg all the way from Colorado for the reunion.

“It’s like you lost a part of your family.  That’s what it was like,” she said.  “Because we were all family.  32 years is still a big part of your life.”

Peterson said she didn’t want to miss out on the reunion and the people who meant so much to her.

Ron Swanson worked for 42 years as a factory employment supervisor, and hired most of the people at the Maytag plant. He felt sad seeing most of the people he hired lose their jobs when the factory closed.

“I spent a whole morning out there the week before they shut down,” he said.  “Getting the hugs and handshakes and all that.  It kinda brought tears to my eyes to see all the people who knew they weren’t going to have a job in a week or so.”

Swanson noted that this wasn’t the first reunion of the workers.  And he said attendance at the gatherings is growing larger.