Final day for old Nabisco plant will be May 1

The bitter end: Last year, officials announced the closing of Mondelez bakery, which sparked protests by organized labor. The company will legally notify the first group of workers to be laid off this month. TIMES FILE PHOTO

On May 1, a landmark that long has dominated the Northeast Philadelphia skyline will go dark, and when the lights fade away at what once had been the Nabisco bakery at Roosevelt Boulevard and Byberry Road, almost 300 jobs will disappear.

Mondelez Global, the Kraft corporate spin-off that now owns the plant and snack food brands such as Oreo cookies, Cadbury chocolates, Trident chewing gum and the instant breakfast drink Tang, early last year announced plans to close down production in 2015 at 12000 Roosevelt Blvd.

John Lazar, president of Local 492 of the Bakery, Tobacco and Confectionery Workers Union, told the Northeast Times in late December that the company will legally notify the first group of workers to be laid off this month. The first “permanent terminations” will be on March 1. The last workers will leave on May 1, which will be the final day of production, he said. There currently are 265 union members working the plant.

“We expect the bakery will permanently close by midyear 2015,” company spokeswoman Laurie Guzzinati told the paper last week. She said there are approximately 290 hourly and salaried employees at the Northeast bakery.

Guzzinati and Lazar both said the company and union have concluded bargaining related to the closing.

Mondelez is expanding its facilities in New Jersey and Virginia. However, union members and several local public officials claimed Northeast Philadelphia’s jobs are heading to Mexico. Popular brands like Fig Newtons and Graham crackers are now produced south of the border, the union local stated in an open letter to Philadelphia residents in 2014.

In November 2013, workers learned only that the company was considering closing the Northeast bakery. Public officials urged Mondelez to meet with them to discuss what could be done to keep the facility open. That meeting did take place, but it yielded nothing, and the company early last year told its employees it would close the bakery in 2015. Local and state officials were hoping to persuade the company to stay in Philly, but they said they were never given the opportunity.

City Councilman Ed Neilson, then a state representative, last year had said officials suspected the company’s management had decided to leave Philly before the meeting and nothing was going to change that decision.

The Roosevelt Boulevard facility opened as a Nabisco bakery in the mid-1950s and made the familiar products Oreos and Teddy Grahams. Kraft later ran the plant until 2012, when it split its snack food business into a separate company, Mondelez.

When Mondelez announced it would leave the city, union members and local officials — state Sen. Mike Stack, state Reps. Kevin and Brendan Boyle, City Councilmen Brian O’Neill and Bobby Henon — rallied near the Boulevard plant to decry the move.

Brendan Boyle said the plant was profitable and called the decision to leave the city “corporate greed on steroids.” Kevin Boyle called it a “betrayal of the middle class.” ••