The Hershey company announced at the end of May that it will close its famous plant at 19 E. Chocolate Ave in Hershey, Pennsylvania. The plant, for one hundred and six years, the core of the Hershey chocolate empire, will be converted to administrative offices. About six hundred of the one thousand or so workers at the plant will be transferred to an expanded facility in West Hershey.
The move is intended to streamline and modernize Hershey’s production lines. The expanded facility in West Hershey will be one of the largest and most modern chocolate production facilities in the world.
Local 464 of the Chocolate Workers Union did not see the news in such glowing terms. The union had been under threat for quite some time. When Hershey expanded in Mexico and subcontracted work to Barry Callebaut, chocolate workers saw the writing on the wall.
When the discussion turned to closing the most famous Hershey plant, workers were basically offered two options. Agree to a a round of layoffs totaling around 450 positions and move to West Hershey, or watch a new plant being built somewhere else and lose 1,052 jobs in Hershey.
In the end, the union voted to accept the lesser of two evils. In vote of 1,317 to 95, the vast majority approved the management proposal, hoping to limit job losses to 450. The new plant will employ a total of 1,100 union workers and 15o “permanent extras” to fill in for vacation and sickness leaves. The move will be completed by 2012.
Predictably, those hired last will be most likely to lose their jobs. A worker quoted in the Pariot News article, Shawn Ginder, 35, was hired in 1998 and knows he’s unlikely to be retained. He voted for the contract anyway.
“They have all the power right now,” the Palmyra father of two said of the company. “It’s either take this and live with it, or if we turn it down, then nobody might have a job.”