Oscar Mayer plant in Madison to close, lay off about 1,000 workers

By Katherine Michalets - Freeman Staff

Nov. 4, 2015

MADISON - Kraft Heinz announced Wednesday that it will be closing several facilities around North America, including the Oscar Mayer headquarters in Madison in 2016.

According to a statement Wednesday from Michael Mullen, senior vice president of corporate & government affairs for the Kraft Heinz Company, the closures at the seven manufacturing plants will be part of a staged process during the next 12 to 24 months. During that time, production will shift to other existing factories in North America.

After hearing the news, Wisconsin Assembly Democratic Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, released a statement saying he was “deeply saddened” by the pending closure and the loss of more than 1,000 jobs.

“The closure of Oscar Meyer accentuates the urgent need for action on jobs,” Barca said. He also urged the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation to discuss the company’s future in the state at its next meeting.

Asked for comment on the closure, Gov. Scott Walker’s spokeswoman, Laurel Patrick, responded with an email saying Wisconsin’s economy is growing. She said the state Department of Workforce Development would help connect affected workers with potential employers and provide job training and job search assistance.

Other facilities that will be closed by Kraft Heinz are in Fullerton, Calif., San Leandro, Calif., Federalsburg, Md., St. Marys, Ontario, Canada, Campbell, N.Y., and Lehigh Valley, Penn.  The decision to close the facilities was made after an “extensive review of the Kraft Heinz North American supply chain footprint, capabilities and capacity utilization,” according to the statement.

By closing the facilities, Oscar Mayer will eliminate about 2,600 jobs in North America, according to the statement.

The Oscar Mayer and U.S. Meats Business Unit will be moved in 2016 from Madison to the company’s co-headquarters in Chicago, which Mullen said will bring 250 jobs to the Chicago area.

“Members of the Oscar Mayer and U.S. Meats Business Unit will have the opportunity to move with the business to Chicago. The move centralizes all our U.S. Business Units to our co-headquarters of Chicago and Pittsburgh, which will drive increased collaboration and efficiency,” he said.

While Kraft Heinz closes facilities in North America, it will invest hundreds of millions of dollars in improving capacity utilization and modernizing many of its facilities with the installation of state-of-the-art production lines, according to the statement.

“At the appropriate time, affected employees will receive severance benefits, outplacement services and other support to help them pursue new job opportunities. Kraft Heinz fully appreciates and regrets the impact our decision will have on employees, their families and the communities in which these facilities are located,” Mullen said in the statement.

Contributing: The Associated Press