Mondelēz International plans to close its 63-year-old Fair Lawn Nabisco factory, scaling down production in stages until ultimately ceasing it in the summer.
Approximately 600 employees, some salaried and some hourly will lose their jobs. They were informed Feb. 4.
Operations at the cookie factory will transition to other facilities within Mondelēz’ U.S. network, and a hub in Richmond, Va. will receive the Fair Lawn factory’s modern assets, specifically its Oreo manufacturing “Line of the Future,” installed six years ago, and the grind technology that makes the types of cookie grinds used in ice cream flurries and other desserts.
The decision follows Mondelēz’s November announcement that it was considering closing bakeries in Fair Lawn and Atlanta. Both locations are “no longer strategic assets from a geographic footprint perspective face aging infrastructure and outdated production capabilities, the company said, which would have required significant investment to modernize.
It has been reported elsewhere that the Fair Lawn bakery is the largest manufacturer of Oreos in the country. While a spokesperson could not confirm that to be true and said she didn’t know where that statistic came from, she noted that Oreo is the number one cookie in the world, that the Fair Lawn facility also produces other items like Lorna Doone cookies and Teddy Grahams, and that it’s employed multiple generations of families over the years.
“I think by the nature of a manufacturing site that’s been in the community for many years, there are stories of families, of generations. Certainly, there are many employees that have been with the company for many years, which is why something like this is very difficult, whether for the salaried or hourly employees,” the spokesperson said.
“The key thing is this is not a reflection on their commitment or their support for our business over many years and many decades. This, as we think about the future and geography and look at the network snd where there is outdated manufacturing assets, is what sets the business up for this next chapter,” she said.
Closing the facility was “certainly not an easy decision and not something we take lightly,” she added.
Salaried employees will receive severance and other benefits, including outplacement services and other transition support. Transition support for hourly employees, including severance and other benefits, are subject to effects bargaining with the Unions representing those employees, according to the announcement.
The union which represents the most Fair Lawn Nabisco employees is The Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers’ International Union, specifically BCTGM Local 719.
BCTGM International President Anthony Shelton called Mondelēz’ closures in Fair Lawn and Atlanta “a very short-sighted action in an effort to generate corporate profits while devastating communities and families through the closure of these bakeries.”
Mondelēz announced that U.S. jobs will go to Mexico related to these two closures and U.S. biscuit production levels will be maintained, but Shelton suggested otherwise in his prepared statement on the impending closures.
“Closing bakeries and shifting production to low-wage countries like Mexico has been the Mondelēz strategy for decades. The decision by Mondelēz to close bakeries in North America and move production to a recently-built $500 million facility in Salinas, Mexico is an effort to avoid unionization and take advantage of low-wage workers and lax food safety and environmental regulations,” he said.
Mondelēz’s New Jersey presence without the factory will be approximately 1,500 employees across the North American headquarters in East Hanover and a significant research and development presence, according to the spokesperson.