More than 250 current and former employees of trucking company YRC Worldwide Inc. met Friday at Johnny Malloy’s sports pub on Buchholzer Boulevard in Akron to say goodbye and to see old friends.
“This is our family. The friendship will never end,” said Lee Cramer, 55, of Brimfield Township, who left the company in 2008 to move to California, but ended up staying in the area because of the poor housing market.
The gathering of current and former workers marked the end of the company’s days in the former Roadway Express building at 1077 GorgeBlvd.
The headquarters, built in 1962, has been part of the struggling Kansas-based trucking company since Roadway merged with Yellow Corp. in 2003.
As part of wide-ranging financial restructuring moves, YRC Worldwide is selling the Gorge Boulevard property.
Employees were told Friday they had to leave the building by 11 a.m. They had first learned of the closing on Jan. 5.
About 100 people who lost their jobs were spending their last day at work there. Others are being transferred to terminals in Copley and Richfield and to a leased facility on Tallmadge Avenue.
“I grew up at Roadway,” Cramer said. “I was 22. Most of us grew up together and our kids grew up together. It was a culture there. Roadway taught good work ethics. There was a fight to work there. Roadway invested in people. You could go to school on the tuition vouchers. The company had a training department with a 15-member staff.”
She said she started as a telephone operator and was able to move up to a vice president in labor relations.
Now the workers stay in touch on the social media site Facebook.
They call themselves Roadway folks even though Yellow Freight bought Roadway and merged the companies in for $1.1 billion. Roadway had been an independent company for 73 years, having been founded in Akron in 1930.
“From now on we are going to call ourselves Club 1077 when we meet,” Kevin Marciniak, 52, of Canal Fulton, said, referring to the street address on Gorge Boulevard. “Today was my last day. I don’t have a job and I wasn’t offered another one. I worked there 26 years and 50 weeks. I worked in human resources.”
Jerry Gonsiewski, 58, of Barberton, said he was blessed because he was able to retire after 31 years.
“I was hired in the glory days, in 1977,” he said. “This is the first time I’ve seen a lot of these people. It’s pretty emotional. Kids nowadays may never see their pensions.”
Friday was also the last day for Melinda Terry, 57, of Cuyahoga Falls, who was offered a job in Kansas City.
“I was with the company for 35 years but there’s no way. I couldn’t leave my family and friends. I decided to retire rather than move.”
Merger changes culture
Becky Ross, 54, of Tallmadge, and Sarah Anderson, 55, of Cuyahoga Falls, said things changed after the merger.
“I was tapped on the shoulder and after 31 years I was gone in five minutes,” Ross said. “I felt like a criminal with the supervisor standing over my back as I cleared out my desk.”
The date was Feb. 12, 2010, but Anderson remembers it as if it were yesterday. “It was two days before my 33rd anniversary. I’ll never forget it.
“My supervisor told me to check the website because I was rehirable, but all I really heard was, ‘Waaa, waaa,?waaa.’ ”
Cheri Burgner, 57, of Cuyahoga Falls, who was sporting a Roadway Express jacket, said she left on her own after working for the company for 25 years.
“They weren’t going to walk me out,” she said. “It wasn’t just a building. It was a culture.”
But John and Renee Starvaggi had the best memories of the night.
“We met at Roadway in 1989 and at that time, they had a nepotism policy,” said Renee, 47. “You couldn’t be married and work there. My husband marched in and told them he loved his job and didn’t want to quit but he didn’t want me to lose my job, either.”
“The manager said not to worry. The policy was changed six weeks before we got married.”
She said her husband, 51, will lose his job in a couple of months after 28 years. He is the facility manager on Gorge.
“When there is no building, the job is gone,” Renee said. She left the company after 13 years.
“But we are appreciative and thankful and will move on with good memories. My husband and I have been married for 28 years and have two children.”
Marilyn Miller can be reached at 330-996-3098 or firstname.lastname@example.org.