Oscar Mayer To Close 100-Year-Old Madison Plant, Headquarters To Move To Chicago

Oscar Mayer announced its plans to close a Madison, Wisconsin plant on Wednesday, revealing that the company would be moving their headquarters to Chicago.

According to the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel, the move will mark an end to Oscar Mayer’s nearly 100-year presence in Madison. The decision comes just four months after the U.S. meat giant merged with Kraft Heinz. Now their parent company, the closure of the plant is part of Kraft Heinz’s plan to close seven factories in the U.S. and Canada. Approximately 700 Oscar Mayer production jobs and 300 corporate positions in Madison will be eliminated.

“Our decision to consolidate manufacturing across the Kraft Heinz North American network is a critical step in our plan to eliminate excess capacity and reduce operational redundancies for the new combined company,” Kraft Heinz said in a statement, according to the Wisconsin State Journal. “We have reached this difficult but necessary decision after thoroughly exploring extensive alternatives and options.”

Doug Leikness, president of United Food & Commercial Workers Local 538, was informed on Wednesday, November 4 that production will end by early 2017 and the factory, located on 910 Mayer Ave., will close its doors. A meeting with the employees was held Wednesday afternoon inform them of the plan.

“We had no indication,” Leikness said. “They duped us.”

The current Oscar Mayer employees are obviously concerned about what they will do for work when the factory closes.

“The impact on Madison and the metro area has got to be in hundreds of millions of dollars,” Madison Mayor Paul Soglin said during a news conference.

“When you take the payroll, the production, the packaging materials, and then extend it to the dry cleaners, the retailers, the neighborhood grocers, the local dining spots, it is very significant,” Soglin said. “How you make a good situation out of this is difficult. You can’t.”

Luckily, Soglin said Madison’s economy can absorb the loss, as many of the town’s other factories are looking for skilled laborers.

“We do have the capacity to grow more jobs in other sectors. We do have manufacturers in Madison and Dane County who are right now looking for skilled workers, so I don’t think this is going to be as bad as the GM closing in Rock County,” Soglin said.

A manufacturing company in Jefferson county, about 25 minutes east of Madison, said they will try to take in some of the employees as the layoffs begin.

“As they start downsizing, we certainly will enter that arena,” said Scott Seljan, president of Seljan Co. Inc. “We’ll definitely be there.”

Kraft Heinz said it planned on moving the Oscar Mayer headquarters to Chicago. Of the 1,000 employees, Kraft Heinz said 300 of them in the Oscar Mayer and US Meats Business Unit in Madison will have the opportunity to move with the business.

The Oscar Mayer plant is just the first of seven factories that will be closed within the next 12 to 24 months. In total, 2,600 jobs across the company’s manufacturing workforce will be lost. The other factories are located in Fullerton and San Leandro, California; Federalsburg, Maryland.; St. Mary’s, Ontario, Canada; Campbell, New York; and Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania. Kraft Heinz is the third-largest food and beverage company in North America and the fifth-largest food and beverage company in the world.

The Oscar Mayer plant, which makes hot dogs and lunch meats, has been in Madison since 1919, and it has been one of the town’s largest employers for nearly a century.

“If you grew up in Dane County, you grew up with Oscar Mayer,” said Dane County Executive Joe Parisi. “Both my grandmother and grandfather worked there. This one cuts deep.”

[Photo by Suzanne Tucker / Shutterstock.com]