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Tornado-damaged Mayfield candle factory closing, permanently laying off half its employees

Courtesy of John Hewlett
An aerial photo shows the aftermath of December’s deadly tornado at Mayfield Consumer Products in Graves County. Over 100 people were trapped when the factory collapsed during the disaster and nine deaths were connected with the collapse.

The Mayfield candle factory destroyed by December’s deadly tornado outbreak will be closing permanently, according to a letter sent to the state by the plant manager earlier this week.

Mayfield Consumer Products (MCP) plant manager Michael Staten wrote that the facility — where nine people died and over 100 people were trapped in the aftermath of an EF4 tornado moving through Graves County — can no longer be in production.

“MCP has determined that because of the recent devastating tornado that destroyed the factory it can no longer continue to operate at that location in Mayfield, Kentucky,” Staten said. “Operations at that facility ceased on December 10, 2021, when the tornado destroyed the factory. Although it can no longer operate in Mayfield, please know that MCP plans to continue much of its operation in Kentucky.”

MCP plans to speed up the opening of its planned facility in Hickory, just a 12-minute drive north of Mayfield. About half the factory’s employees — 250 of the 501 positions — will be transferred to this new facility.

“Although many employees are being offered a transfer to the (new) facility, there will not be room for the entire operation to move to Hickory Point,” the letter continued. “Therefore, not all employees will be able to transition to that plant. Those employees not offered a transfer to the new facility will be laid off.”

MCP expects all layoffs in Mayfield to be permanent and no bumping rights exist. Bumping rights can provide for an employee to displace another after a layoff or other action. They often allow for more senior employees to retain positions over less experienced workers.

This letter, dated Jan. 10, was submitted to the Office of Employer and Apprenticeship Services just 31 days after the disaster. The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act says normally employers are obligated to provide 60 days’ notice for a facility ending operations but, Staten said, this cessation is “due to unpredictable natural disaster that occurred on December 10, 2021, and unforeseen business circumstances that followed that disaster. Neither the disaster nor the resulting business circumstances were foreseeable at the time notice would typically have been required.”

Staten advised any employees or people requesting information on this matter call him at 270-727-1688.

A group of employees who survived the factory’s collapse are engaged in legal action with MCP. A lawsuit has been filed in Kentucky’s court system accusing the company of violating state occupational safety and health workplace standards by keeping its staff at work during the disaster. Four employees told NBC News managers had threatened their jobs if they left work early, and the husband of a woman who died at the factory told KyCIR she was afraid of losing work if she didn’t show up that night. The suit seeks compensatory and punitive damages from the company.

A native of western Kentucky, Operle earned his bachelor's degree in integrated strategic communications from the University of Kentucky in 2014. Operle spent five years working for Paxton Media/The Paducah Sun as a reporter and editor. In addition to his work in the news industry, Operle is a passionate movie lover and concertgoer.
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