MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Meetings between laid-off Mylan employees and WorkForce WV wrapped up Thursday, with hundreds facing the unexpected frontier of unemployment.

“I’ve been out of work for the last week now. I’m going crazy,” Bruceton Mills native John Berger said. “I need a job as soon as possible. I’m not one to sit around on my hands.

“I’ve never been unemployed. And for the last 12 years, I’ve made about 30 bucks an hour, give or take.”

Berger worries he may have priced himself out of many jobs he’s now trying to find. The 18-year veteran and diesel truck mechanic remains in the Army Reserves, he said the pay and benefits at Mylan were virtually unchallenged throughout the area.

“When I go to these new interviews and tell them, ‘Hey this is what we’ve been making; this is what I live on…’ they can’t believe it,” he said. “Especially with the healthcare Mylan provided for us at the low cost they did, no one can match that.”

Mylan announced last week that it was right-sizing its Morgantown plant by axing 500 employees. WorkForce WV aims to instruct these workers about filing for unemployment online, deciphering healthcare options, and figuring out how best to market themselves and their skill sets to future employers.

Berger went to work for Mylan five years ago, in part, so that he and his wife could live closer to her childhood home in Bruceton Mills. His wife, who is employed, is now 36 weeks pregnant.

“Of course there’s that panic,” he said. “When you make that money, you live at the money. Everyone can say, oh no I saved it, but really you don’t. Yeah, there’s panic and there’s worry.”

That panic becomes particularly evident when the topic turns to health insurance. The workers’ company coverage expires at the end of April.

“I thought, ‘Hey, they’re laying us off. Maybe they’ll give us two or three months of insurance.’ I didn’t expect it to be a week,” he said. “The statue that Milan Puskar put out there was, you know, we’re going to take care of you. That’s what everyone believed. This was a complete and total shock to everyone.”

When rumors circulated prior to last Friday’s announcement, many workers didn’t feel the job cuts were permanent.

“We were thinking was, ‘Hey they’re going to halt production for a couple of weeks, knock out these new training sessions for the supervisors, and then they’re going to come train us,'” he said. “It was a complete shock with the 400 union employees that was laid off.”

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