United Furniture Industries lays off 2,700 workers as they slept

A big US furniture company this week fired all of its 2,700 employees while they were sleeping, telling them in texts and emails not to come to work the next day, according to reports.

The mass firing on Tuesday by United Furniture Industries, which makes budget-friendly sofas and recliners for Simmons Upholstery, left thousands of employees including truck drivers and factory workers in North Carolina, Mississippi and California unemployed just two days before Thanksgiving.

“At the instruction of the board of directors … we regret to inform you that due to unforeseen business circumstances, the company has been forced to make the difficult decision to terminate the employment of all its employees, effective immediately, on Nov. 21,” the company said in messages to employees.

“With the exception of over-the-road drivers that are out on delivery. Your layoff from the company is expected to be permanent and all benefits will be terminated immediately without provision of COBRA.”

The privately held, Okolona, Miss.-based company could not be reached for comment.

An image of the text that UFI workers received.
Some UFI employees received this text telling them not to come to work on Nov. 22.

Drivers were told they’d be paid for the remainder of the week and that they should immediately “return equipment, inventory and delivery documents,” according to the memo. 

A UFI truck driver was arrested in Monroe County, Miss., on suspicion of taking furniture off of a truck after he was laid off by the company, according to the Daily Press

A UFI worker making furniture in a factory.
United Furniture Industries mysteriously laid off all of its 2,700 employees on Monday.
United Furniture Industries

It’s not clear why the two-decade-old company dissolved its operations so suddenly, but over the summer it had fired its chief executive, chief financial officer and executive vice president of sales, according to FurnitureToday.com. Several weeks later, some 500 employees lost their jobs at multiple facilities in Winston-Salem, NC, and Verona, Miss,. and Victorville, Calif.

The outside of UFI's headquarters.
The company is headquartered in Tupelo, Miss.
United Furniture Industries

On Tuesday, workers were later told they could come to their work spaces to “gather their belongings,” a UFI spokesperson told Freightwaves.com.

A laid-off worker told the publication, “It’s not fair to the laborers who seriously worked so hard to be blindsided like this. It’s not fair to the mom who just had a baby to wonder if she even has health insurance to cover it. It’s not fair to the cancer pateient in the midst of chemo about how to pay for her treatments.”

On Wednesday a former employee in Mississippi, Toria Neal, filed a lawsuit against UFI, alleging that the company violated federal law by failing to give 60 days’ notice before dissolving the operations. 

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