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.” ••