Northeast Times

Mondelez closes old Nabisco plant

The icon­ic old Nabisco bakery will be closed by early next year, the fa­cil­ity’s cur­rent own­er, Mondelez In­ter­na­tion­al, an­nounced today. Mondelez spokes­wo­man Laurie Guzzinati this af­ter­noon said Mondelez was con­sol­id­at­ing its East Coast op­er­a­tions and will in­vest heav­ily in fa­cil­it­ies in Fair Lawn, N.J., and Rich­mond, Va. The com­pany said 350 em­ploy­ees will lose their jobs.

Uni­on mem­bers had learned in the fall that the bakery that makes Or­eos might shut down,  and state and city of­fi­cials went in­to over­drive to try to get the com­pany that had split off from Kraft to tell them how they could keep the plant at 12000 Roosevelt Blvd. from shut­ting down.

A com­pany ex­ec­ut­ive met with gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials in Novem­ber, City Coun­cil­man Bri­an O’Neill (R-10th dist.) said re­cently, but noth­ing ever came of it. Be­sides state Sen. Mike Stack and O’Neill, rep­res­ent­at­ives of the gov­ernor’s of­fice, the City Com­merce De­part­ment and oth­er agen­cies met with the Mondelez ex­ec­ut­ive com­pany ex­ec­ut­ives. State Reps. Brendan Boyle and Ed Neilson par­ti­cip­ated by phone from Har­ris­burg.

Neilson (D-169th dist.) said of­fi­cials were try­ing to come up with tax and oth­er in­cent­ives to keep the bakery in North­east Philly.

“They nev­er told us what they wanted,” Neilson said Thursday.

Sev­er­al of­fi­cials re­peated that sen­ti­ment Thursday and Fri­day.

Guzzinati said Mondelez met with gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials at their re­quest.

“The of­fi­cials shared gen­er­al in­form­a­tion on pos­sible in­cent­ives and tax cred­its,” she stated in an email to the North­east Times.

O’Neill said Fri­day he had be­come con­vinced the com­pany already had de­cided to leave Phil­adelphia, and noth­ing could be done to al­ter that de­cision.

“I think it was carved in stone,” he said.

On Fri­day, Stack (D-5th dist.) said he was go­ing to ask Gov. Tom Corbett to make one last bid to ask Mondelez ex­ec­ut­ives to re­con­sider.

The plant, which opened in the mid-1950s as a Nabisco bakery, has al­most 300 uni­on em­ploy­ees, who make such fa­mil­i­ar products as Or­eos and Teddy Gra­hams. The bakery was owned by Kraft un­til late 2012, when Mondelez split off in­to a sep­ar­ate com­pany.

“I think the day that sale was made and the com­pany was split, our plant was on the wrong side of the split,” O’Neill said.

State Rep. Kev­in Boyle said the com­pany had made no form­al re­quests for any­thing that gov­ern­ment could do to keep the North­east plant open.

He said it seemed to him that the com­pany was try­ing to wrest some wage and be­ne­fits con­ces­sions from its uni­on work­ers. He said he heard that the com­pany and uni­on rep­res­ent­at­ives had met re­cently and that the ses­sion hadn’t gone well.

Asked about deal­ings with the uni­on, Guzzinati wrote, “Once our dis­cus­sions with the uni­on con­cluded, we did not en­vi­sion a scen­ario based on the stat­utor­ily avail­able in­cent­ives and tax cred­its that would have provided a vi­able al­tern­at­ive to clos­ing the Phil­adelphia bakery.”

“When we first heard about this po­ten­tial plant clos­ure,  the state del­eg­a­tion brought in the Gov­ernor’s Ac­tion Team to town while Coun­cil­man Bri­an O’Neill en­gaged the city de­part­ments,” Neilson stated in an email to the North­east Times. All that was done in the hope that they would be able to per­suade Mondelez to stay.

“They were nev­er even giv­en an op­por­tun­ity, as many of us sus­pec­ted, to make a form­al pro­pos­al of in­cent­ives. Their mind was made up and like many oth­er big busi­nesses are do­ing in today’s world, told us the com­pany could not get passed the labor part of the equa­tion. These are hard-work­ing middle class men and wo­men mak­ing a de­cent wage. None are liv­ing a lav­ish life­style like those mak­ing the de­cisions. While profits keep go­ing up, the work force gets re­duced in more ways than one. These jobs are hard to find which is an­oth­er reas­on why we are push­ing for a hike in min­im­um wages throughout.”

Mondelez had world­wide in­come of $35 bil­li­on. It also makes Triscuits, Chips Ahoy cook­ies, Ritz crack­ers, New­tons, Tang, Tri­dent gum and Cad­bury chocol­ates.

“The role of the Phil­adelphia bakery with­in the com­pany’s bis­cuit-man­u­fac­tur­ing net­work foot­print has changed over time,” the com­pany said in a news re­lease Thursday. “The site cur­rently pro­duces a lim­ited num­ber of core products. Oth­er fa­cil­it­ies are bet­ter po­si­tioned to sup­port the com­pany’s fu­ture busi­ness needs.”

It was profits over people, Kev­in Boyle and his broth­er, state Rep. Brendan Boyle, said in a news re­lease Fri­day.

“We find the ex­plan­a­tion and ra­tionale be­hind the clos­ure of the Mondelez In­ter­na­tion­al plant in­ex­plic­able. While Mondelez asks the pub­lic to be­lieve that they are clos­ing a proven premi­um re­source in or­der to take the next step in in­nov­a­tion and ef­fect­ive­ness, the real­ity couldn’t be fur­ther from the truth.

“To­geth­er, with state Sen. Mike Stack, we offered to work with Mondelez in or­der to pri­or­it­ize their needs and open up a new and state of the art fact­ory right here in Phil­adelphia.  This of­fer in­cluded in­vit­a­tions to tour the re­gion, which nev­er re­ceived a re­sponse. Coupled with the in­cent­ives we were will­ing to provide the work­ing people of North­east Phil­adelphia, through their proven com­mit­ment and work eth­ic, would have taken Mondelez to a whole new level.  In­stead, Mondelez held its em­ploy­ees host­age by de­mand­ing cuts to their pay and be­ne­fits.

“It is clear, through their de­cision not to con­sider our of­fers and in­vit­a­tions, that Mondelez In­ter­na­tion­al’s de­cision to close the fact­ory at Roosevelt and By­berry was driv­en by profits over people. It is sad and de­plor­able that they placed short term profits over what could have truly been the es­tab­lish­ment of an elite and en­vi­able fact­ory in one of the lead­ing man­u­fac­tur­ing re­gions of the United States.” ••

You can reach at jloftus@bsmphilly.com.

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