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Nabisco's 1995 Pullout Still Leaves Bitter Taste

Employment: Hundreds of mostly Latino workers lost their jobs when Oxnard factory closed in wake of sex-discrimination suit. Many have not recovered from the blow.


Richard and Margaret Guzman were among those employees. He put in 16 years at the company, driving a forklift most of that time. She was a seasonal worker during that same period, packing chiles from August to October.

Together, the high school sweethearts raised six kids on Nabisco paychecks and were saving to buy a home. After the factory closed, they declared bankruptcy and struggled to stay afloat.

Richard Guzman, 47, was only able to find work in short spurts, always for less money than he earned at Nabisco. Long dry spells without employment plunged him into depression. He and Margaret fought often as the futile job search took a toll on their marriage.

Finally, early last year, he was hired as a forklift driver by Haas Automation in Oxnard and has worked his way up to $10.50 an hour.

Initially, Margaret Guzman, 46, fared better. She landed one of the county jobs created to help Nabisco workers. That lasted two years until she got laid off in April of last year.

She has since gone back to work for the county, although as temporary summer help. Ironically, she is helping youngsters find jobs for the summer. Friday was her last day of work.

"We suffered a lot," said Margaret Guzman, one of the workers who complained about the restriction of bathroom privileges and one of three named plaintiffs in the class-action lawsuit.

"You work all your life to make a company grow and grow, because you believe the more they grow the more it will benefit you, and then all of the sudden they just pack up and leave," she said. "It makes me angry. They shouldn't have treated the workers that way."

Lydia Hernandez couldn't agree more. Even with all that has happened, she said she wouldn't change anything if she had it do over again. Conditions were unbearable for the women who worked the assembly-line jobs, she said, and that needed to change.

"To tell you the truth, I was surprised that I went ahead and did that," she said. "But I knew somebody had to listen to us. As long as we spoke the truth, I knew people would believe us."

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