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More sad goodbyes for Oscar Mayer workers

More sad goodbyes for Oscar Mayer workers

From the End of an era: Madison's Oscar Mayer plant closing after nearly 100 years series
Oscar Mayer, 2017

Workers from the final production shift in late June trickled out the door at Madison's Oscar Mayer plant, 910 Mayer Ave., in this recent photo. On Friday, the remaining 30 or so union-represented workers and all but a few salaried employees left the nearly-shuttered plant.

The shutdown of Madison’s Oscar Mayer plant is nearly complete.

The final group of union-represented Oscar Mayer employees and nearly all of the remaining salaried staff walked out of the factory Friday afternoon, their jobs over.

Three maintenance supervisors are the only ones left to keep an eye on the now-stilled, hulking meat processing plant, said Doug Leikness, president of United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 538.

Meanwhile, negotiations continue with a possible buyer for the property, said Michael Mullen, spokesman for Oscar Mayer’s parent company, Kraft Heinz.

“The process with a potential buyer remains ongoing and nothing is final,” Mullen said.

Reich Brothers, a company known for buying closed factories and selling their assets, has been looking over the site. Co-CEO Adam Reich couldn’t be reached for comment on Friday.

Leikness said representatives of a firm interested in the 72-acre property, at 910 Mayer Ave., visited the Oscar Mayer plant several times this week. He said two men and a woman parked in the union’s portion of the parking lot, and the woman said they represented a potential buyer but did not identify the company.

Leikness also said three workers in the plant’s power house were asked to submit resumes to the prospective but unnamed buyer — in two cases, in messages delivered by Kraft Heinz, and in the other, by someone who claimed to represent the possible buyer.

The power house runs the facility’s electricity, water and refrigeration, and handles fire protection.

Oscar Mayer had its headquarters in Madison from 1919 to 2016 and was a huge, East Side employer with 4,000 workers at its peak in the 1970s, producing hot dogs and a wide variety of lunch meats. Production ended one month ago.

The plant is one of seven Kraft Heinz factories ordered closed in a corporate restructuring announced in November 2015.

One, a Lunchables factory in Fullerton, California, will stay open. Of the others, at least two have been purchased and will see new life. A crouton plant in Federalsburg, Maryland, bought by Eastern Shore Forest Products will make animal bedding, while a cheese factory in Campbell, New York, being purchased by Upstate Niagara Cooperative will continue making dairy products.

In Madison, exit meetings were held Thursday for the last union-represented Oscar Mayer employees, Leikness said. “Many of them came over to say goodbye and had a beer with us,” he said.


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