Arms open to laid off Dawn of Hope workers

Sue Guinn Legg • Apr 23, 2014 at 9:12 AM

News that unsuccessful contract negotiations have resulted in a layoff of six Dawn of Hope service recipients long employed in the kitchen at Veterans Affairs Medical Center at Mountain Home has resulted in job offers from a couple of local businesses willing to help.

Dawn of Hope Vocational Services Director Jon Cardwell said two area business owners contacted him separately on Monday and Tuesday with offers to put some of those who were impacted by the layoff back to work.

“It has brought visibility to us,” Cardwell said of a Friday news report on the failed contract negotiations. “Because of the news, we are getting calls from local businesses inquiring about the opportunity to employ some folks. The community at least is opening its arms to say can we help here.”

In the meantime, four of the six adults with developmental disabilities who lost their jobs washing dishes on the evening shift at VAMC have gone to work in temporary jobs available through other employment contracts held by Dawn of Hope.

But because those jobs are temporary, Cardwell said the offers of employment by independent employers is most encouraging. “That’s ideal, for them to be employed in the community on their own. Our hope is that all those individuals will get jobs better even than they had at VA.”

According to Cardwell, the breakdown in negotiations of the long running contract stemmed from new federal Department of Labor mandates for a wage, insurance and benefit package that exceeded the cost of the previous contract by $8,600. “We can’t absorb that and we passed it on to the VA. The VA said they weren’t going to pay it and we were kind of caught in the middle of two federal agencies.”

While VAMC’s directors were away at a conference and unavailable to comment on Tuesday, VAMC Associate Medical Center Director Dan Snyder said last week, although the initial contract offer was too costly and not competitive with other contractor agreements, the facility is open to further discussions with Dawn of Hope.

Cardwell said Dawn of Hope is anxious to renew the negotiations and will reach out to VAMC directors as soon as feasible. “They’re good folks and they’re using taxpayer dollars and trying to use them wisely,” he said. “My hope is that we can find some middle ground.”

While the contract was originally set to expire at the close of the federal budget year on Sept. 30, Cardwell said it was extended twice because of the lack of a federal budget before finally ending on March 31, with Dawn of Hope paying the additional cost of the employment package required by the Department of Labor in the interim.

Recommended for You

    Johnson City Press Videos