SPARTANBURG COUNTY, S.C. (WSPA) — Kohler Co. is shutting down some of its operations at its Spartanburg County facility.

“It’s kind of like somebody just dropped a bomb on your life,” said Kohler employee Travis Champion.

Kohler Co. leaders tell 7NEWS they’re ending vitreous operations at the site and laying off nearly half of the employees, starting December 12, 2023. They said the plastics and warehouse operations departments at this site will continue.

“It was a pretty big surprise. We were just out there working, and they called everybody into the breakroom and gave us a letter,” said Champion.

Champion said affected employees were surprised to receive a letter on October 12, giving 60 days’ notice.

“It’s been slow the past couple of months, and they talked to us about it, but we’ve even asked them in meetings and stuff, ‘Are we going to have to look for a job, is this fixing to shut down?” and they always say ‘Oh, no, it’s just slow right now,” said Champion.

Now, Champion is one of 133 people who will lose their job. Kohler said there are about 300 employees at the Spartanburg facility.

“What am I going to do? I mean, I’m 45 years old, and I’ve been here 24 years in February. So, it’s all I’ve ever done,” said Champion.

He said employees will not receive severance pay and he said he will no longer have insurance.
Champion is also worried about finding a new job.

“They say, ‘get your resume ready.’ I mean I don’t have a resume. I’ve done one thing for 24 years since I got out of high school,” said Champion.

Spartanburg County Council’s Economic Development Chair David Britt believes affected employees will be able to find work, soon.

“Last year, we had 4,045 new jobs created,” said Britt. “This year, without BMW’s, we’ve had just over 2,000 jobs created. Our biggest need, if you said what is the biggest need in Spartanburg, it’s qualified people who are willing to work.”

He also said there are resources, like SC Works and the Upstate Workforce Board, which can help people look for jobs, craft resumes, and move forward.

“All of these companies that we’ve recruited this year and last year, this is an employee’s market,” said Britt.

The Upstate Workforce Board’s executive director said a team is planning to meet with management and employees impacted by layoffs at Kohler. She said they will help every single person find a new job.

The full statement from Kohler Co:

“Kohler Co. regularly reviews our operations to ensure that the company is positioned for long-term success.  We are proceeding with a planned retirement of vitreous operations at our facility in Spartanburg, South Carolina.  Plastics and warehouse operations are continuing at the Spartanburg plant.

We anticipate that the workforce action will begin in December.  The decision affects 133 associates of the approximately 300 associates we employ at our Spartanburg facility.  The affected associates were provided 60 days’ notice as required by the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act.  Kohler Co. has other open positions for which affected associates can apply. 

Kohler’s business is strong, and we remain well positioned as a leader in the markets in which we compete.  We continue to aggressively invest across our U.S. manufacturing footprint to drive future growth and delight customers.”