Heinz closes Leamington ketchup plant

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lagatta
Heinz closes Leamington ketchup plant
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Catchfire Catchfire's picture

Occupy the plant. Keep making ketchup. What does Leamington have to lose?

ygtbk
MegB

Losing more than 700 jobs in a community of that size is devastating enough, but the tomato farmers will be harshly impacted, as will all the small businesses who depend on a healthy local economy to survive. I'm with CF on this - they have nothing to lose by occupying the plant.

lagatta

The Globe says 740 jobs. And indeed, this is not only a major employer in a small town, but also a main user of local produce. And I'm sure tomatoes not "pretty" enough to be sold whole can go into ketchup and other preparations.

abnormal

lagatta wrote:

The Globe says 740 jobs. And indeed, this is not only a major employer in a small town, but also a main user of local produce. And I'm sure tomatoes not "pretty" enough to be sold whole can go into ketchup and other preparations.

A university friend that grew up on a farm refused to eat ketchup because of the "quality" of the tomatoes that they sold to the ketchup manufacturers.  In brief, the best of the best they took to the local farmers market, the next quality down they sold to grocery chains, the blemished ones that couldn't be sold in a store went to the canners, and the rotten ones went to the ketchup manufacturers.

BTW, the Globe article did say that Heinz would be moving production to St. Marys and the US and would be adding 430 jobs there.  I didn't see anything in the article about how many of those jobs will be in St. Marys - while it doesn't help Leamington it sounds like not all the jobs are leaving the country.

6079_Smith_W

Not only that... they can switch to a better recipe.

This South African brand is fabulous

http://www.mopanitrading.co.uk/All-Gold-Tomato-Ketchup-350ml/prod_49.html

 

paolo

..occupy sounds like a plan.

ygtbk

If the plant is economically viable, maybe the workers and/or the town could buy it and make it into a co-op?

paolo

..first there is a need to stop the place from being stripped down or sold. who wants to buy an occupied company with a town that supports it.

ygtbk

paolo wrote:

..first there is a need to stop the place from being stripped down or sold. who wants to buy an occupied company with a town that supports it.

I was suggesting two possible buyers.

paolo

ygtbk wrote:

paolo wrote:

..first there is a need to stop the place from being stripped down or sold. who wants to buy an occupied company with a town that supports it.

I was suggesting two possible buyers.

..buying is an option. the process of raising that kind of cash is precarious to say the least. time is needed. growing support externally also needs time. occupy means time. otherwise you get caught up in political debate and quick as wink your opportunity has passed. security has moved in, the courts have been engaged and your on the outside looking in..without a job. or so i would think.

Unionist

I have a serious problem with outsiders suggesting actions to workers. Why would we do that? It's up to them and their union to meet, discuss, reflect, and decide.

The workers are members of UFCW Local 459. Have they commented?

This is also an event which adversely affects the economy and the livelihood of Ontarians and Canadians. What has the Ontario government said - and the opposition parties?

 

6079_Smith_W

Unionist wrote:

I have a serious problem with outsiders suggesting actions to workers. Why would we do that? It's up to them and their union to meet, discuss, reflect, and decide.

No disrespect to the workers (and I agree with you when it comes to telling THEM what to do), but they are far from the only ones at the table, and they are not the only ones who are in a position to have a say here.What about the farmers? What about the town? What about the many businesses which depend on that plant?

No one who has invested energy into that place and depends on it is an outsider. ANYONE could put an offer on the table, so long as the site is for sale, and the equipment isn't carted away.In that respect it's no more in the workers'; hands than anyone else's.

 

paolo

..we need to talk more about how workers can better defend themselves. nobody is telling anybody else what to do. that is not my intension. but we do need to find a way out of this. and there is a public realm that the whole situation is a part of thus allows for public involvement. it's not just a union issue. and unions can't deal with it alone. but always it begins with those on the ground.

..i also was wondering how those working there/the town were feeling about this.

Unionist

6079_Smith_W wrote:

No disrespect to the workers (and I agree with you when it comes to telling THEM what to do), but they are far from the only ones at the table, and they are not the only ones who are in a position to have a say here.

Before we have a fight for nothing... my objection was, very very specifically, to people here (or anywhere) advising the workers to occupy the plant because, hey, they have nothing to lose. I object to that. That's their decision alone.

And like it or not, the workers have an organization. It may be good, bad, honest, corrupt, useless... I don't know. But unless and until they tell the UFCW to go suck rocks, we need to ensure that everyone - government, employers, media, suppliers - recognizes and deals with their organization and their spokespersons. Otherwise, just let Harper continue with his project of unseating the "union bosses" and liberating the poor oppressed "taxpayers".

Finally, yes, I totally agree with you that there are many others whose interests are at stake. Had you read the rest of my post, you would have noticed the reference to the economy, to livelihoods, to Ontarians, to Canadians.

So what exactly are we disagreeing about?

 

Unionist

paolo wrote:

it's not just a union issue. and unions can't deal with it alone.

You are fighting a straw man here, paolo. No one said it was a "union issue" and that the unions should deal with it alone.

But did you notice that no one, in the flurry of telling workers what to do, even thought to wonder if they had a union, who it was, what they were saying?

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but always it begins with those on the ground.

Yes.

Quote:
..i also was wondering how those working there/the town were feeling about this.

Yes! Me too.

paolo

unionist

..your right about the strawman. thanks for making me aware. i did wonder if they were unionized. since catchfire lead the cry i wondered what that would look like. how can we grow support. who would support it and how. the call to occupy is not at odds with whatever actions decided by the community. it's a discussion.  

lagatta

I think it is more a matter of how we support the unionized workers in the plant, as well as local farmers and others who stand to lose their livelihoods with such an important plant closure in a small place. We can certainly suggest options; nothing disrespectful to the workers, their union or other stakeholders about that.

I'd very much like to hear more from the plant workers and other people there.

paolo

..i agree lagatta. and we can learn from it when we watch it closely.

6079_Smith_W

Unionist wrote:

So what exactly are we disagreeing about?

On the meat of the matter, I suspected (correctly) that we weren't. 

I'd say what caught my attention was the word "outsiders". It might be strictly true when it comes to union decision-making. On the other hand, given that this is going to hit many at least as hard as the workers and their families, I think it's a bit strong given the spirit in which some of this advice is intended.

But I'm not challenging your freedom to use the term, of course.

Unionist

[url=http://ontariondp.com/en/ontario-ndp-leader-on-heinz-plant-closure]Andrea Horwath:[/url]

Quote:

“The closure of the Heinz plant in Leamington is a devastating blow to the workers in Leamington and their families. The brunt of the plant’s loss – located in the tomato capital of Canada – will also be felt by local farmers and the entire Southwestern agricultural community.

“The Leamington plant is the second largest Heinz plant in the world, and has employed thousands of workers from Southwestern Ontario since 1909.

“It’s been clear for some time that government policy, especially federal changes to packaging and labeling, put the future of this plant at risk. New Democrats have worked hard to ensure that jobs and investment stay in Ontario and have called on the government for action to ensure this plant and others like it can continue to operate. Now, more than ever, we need real action and not empty talk when it comes to protecting jobs.

“New Democrats stand with the workers in Leamington, their families and Southwestern Ontario tomato farmers.”

Interesting about packaging and labeling - anyone know what that's about?

 

6079_Smith_W

My guess is the proposed country of origin labelling thing in the states. Or GMO , perhaps.

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

For the record, I absolutely stand by the Leamington workers, farmers and families who depend on the factory for their livelihood. I don't see how my suggestion could be construed as anything but unequivocal support. No one is "telling" the workers -- or the residents of Leamington, who were included in my post -- what to do.

paolo

..my bold

Canada's Leading Union stands with Leamington in Aftershock of Heinz Closure Announcement

Canada's leading food workers union is standing with the community of Leamington, Ontario today in the aftershock of the H.J. Heinz Company's announcement that will directly cost the city more than 650 good union jobs, and the province's agricultural sector thousands more.

In a letter delivered Thursday afternoon to Leamington Heinz employees, who are proud members of UFCW Canada Local 459, the company disclosed its decision to close the long-producing ketchup plant, which has served as an integral part of the city's economy since 1909.

"As Canada's leading force for workers and their families, UFCW Canada will be working closely with the Local 459 leadership to offer plant closure and transition services to members as they become affected by this unwelcome news," says Paul Meinema, president of the UFCW Canada National Council.

As Leamington's largest employer, and a major processing centre for the products of area farmers, the Heinz closure is also expected to have a major impact on the entire region, impacting thousands of agricultural operations and their employees throughout the region.

The Heinz facility in Leamington was recently purchased by a private equity firm owned by Berkshire Hathaway and 3G Capital, a Brazilian investment firm.

"Today's announcement is another example of a transnational private equity firm swooping in to a Canadian community and sucking up the hard-earned value of an operation that was built by generations of hard-working Canadian and their families," adds Meinema. "This latest closure is another strong example of why our federal government desperately needs to review and reform existing foreign investment legislation, and to introduce a new approach that finally puts Canadians and the well-being of their communities first."

The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW Canada) is Canada's leading and most progressive union, representing more than quarter of a million food, retail and commercial workers in every province of the country.

http://www.sys-con.com/node/2874069

 

Unionist

Very sad that the UFCW has to resort to talking points and bravado - must be afraid of Unifor or USW or someone. They'll have to shed that stuff and grow some humility if they are to be of any assistance to the workers.

Quote:
"As Canada's leading force for workers and their families, UFCW Canada..."

Quote:
"The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW Canada) is Canada's leading and most progressive union..."

Quote:
"Canada's Leading Union"

Sheesh.

Catchfire wrote:
For the record, I absolutely stand by the Leamington workers, farmers and families who depend on the factory for their livelihood. I don't see how my suggestion could be construed as anything but unequivocal support. No one is "telling" the workers -- or the residents of Leamington, who were included in my post -- what to do.

Catchfire, you misunderstood me. I never meant to impugn anyone's full-out support for the workers. But listen, please: Calls to occupy a plant are serious business. The CAW did many plant occupations in Ontario over the years, but as far as I recall, they were always done with an aim in mind - not just because workers had "nothing to lose". The aim was generally to stop products and machinery from being removed from the plant so that either: 1) decent severance packages could be squeezed out of the employer; or 2) pressure could be put on government to intervene.

I'm not saying those were the "right" aims, or that they went "far enough", or that there always has to be an "aim". I am, however, saying this very loudly: Tactics that are ill thought out, or resorted to out of pure frustration, or because there's "nothing to lose", can discourage and demobilize not only the workers directly involved, but the entire workers' movement. A form of struggle should be adopted not because there's "nothing to lose" (although that can be an element in deciding that something needs to be done) - but because there's "something to win". Deliver victory, however small, and the whole movement will be inspired to go further.

I'm giving you my opinions - and some lessons I've learned from both positive and mostly negative past efforts - on the general topic. The specific questions really need to be left to those who will be doing the fighting - and then we can offer support as allies.

 

paolo

paolo wrote:

"As Canada's leading force for workers and their families, UFCW Canada will be working closely with the Local 459 leadership to offer plant closure and transition services to members as they become affected by this unwelcome news," says Paul Meinema, president of the UFCW Canada National Council.

..sad indeed.

..when the news went out re the military type operation that took place in elispogtokwen other folks in differnt places created independent action in support. it was natural. there was no need for discussion except for those who performed the actions. a large part of our strength lies in that we are not tied into a predictable process or structures.

Red Winnipeg

Rather than continuing to produce heavily-processed food (bottled ketchup), why don't the workers shift to organic and fresh tomato production and distribution?

lagatta

Well, that's a whole other issue. The workers and townspeople haven't decided anything yet.

I don't eat Heinz ketchup, but this is very serious for the workers and whole town and surrounding farms.

Perkins

I'm not sure if anyone remembers this, but the UFCW predicted that plant closures would be the result of Harper's changes to weaken Canadian food packaging regulations.  To quote from Jan. 28th, 2013 press release of UFCW:

"The Harper government's proposed changes to weaken Canadian food packaging regulations "is a recipe that could kill thousands of good food processing jobs in Canada," says UFCW Canada National President Hanley.

"What is being proposed will cause irreparable harm to Canada's food chain and economy, and as such should be withdrawn," said the leader of Canada's food workers union in an open letter to Gerry Ritz, the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food who is promoting changes that would allow foreign food processors to flood the Canadian market with products that do not currently meet Canadian standards for uniform package weights and volumes for many processed food products."

http://ufcw.ca/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=3227%3Adropp...

Red Winnipeg

Perkins wrote:

I'm not sure if anyone remembers this, but the UFCW predicted that plant closures would be the result of Harper's changes to weaken Canadian food packaging regulations.  To quote from Jan. 28th, 2013 press release of UFCW:

"The Harper government's proposed changes to weaken Canadian food packaging regulations "is a recipe that could kill thousands of good food processing jobs in Canada," says UFCW Canada National President Hanley.

"What is being proposed will cause irreparable harm to Canada's food chain and economy, and as such should be withdrawn," said the leader of Canada's food workers union in an open letter to Gerry Ritz, the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food who is promoting changes that would allow foreign food processors to flood the Canadian market with products that do not currently meet Canadian standards for uniform package weights and volumes for many processed food products."

http://ufcw.ca/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=3227%3Adropp...

Wayne Hanley said in his letter that having the government determine acceptable sizes for food packaging (e.g., a 500g or 1,000g package of honey is okay but an 800g package of honey is illegal) is a "sensible requirement". It's "sensible" in what way? Is food safer? Do consumers have more choices? How are mandated sizes "sensible"?

Perkins

@Red Winnipeg

Should I prepare to be lectured about the evils of non-tariff barriers?

I think it is perfectly sensible to use metric sizes in Canada.  Whatever your criticisms, such regulations do create thousands upon thousands of food processing and packaging jobs in this country (including the production of the packages themselves), and I would argue, improves food safety and security.  Apparently, the Heinz plant in Pittsburgh has the capacity to supply almost all of the ketchup in North America.  To me, it seems smart to have multiple plants supplying food products, from a food security and safety perspective.  In a similar vein, I also don't like the idea of outsourcing food safety regulation to other countries, which will happen when more and more food processing and packaging capacity leaves this country.

lagatta

Standard sizes make it far easier for consumer to effectively compare prices - there has been a lot of stealth downsizing of packaging of late. Moreover, the deregulation makes it cheaper for US companies to dump their products here without observing our metric packaging laws.

I doubt it is illegal to have an intermediate size between 500g and 1kg (who says 1000g?) The fishy sizes are not round figures.

paolo

Talks with premier failed to stop Heinz shutdown

quote:

The head of the union representing 600 of Leamington’s Heinz workers said he too was left out of the loop, only being advised of the food processing giant’s closure decision by a manager moments before workers were handed the news.

“I offered to open up the collective agreement if needed,” Rob Crawford, president of United Food & Commercial Workers Local 459, said he told the manager. But it was too late.

“There was no negotiating,” Crawford said, adding the announcement was greeted by workers with shock and sadness.

Local movers and shakers are now scrambling to find a potential saviour for Leamington’s biggest employer and taxpayer, a century-old economic juggernaut whose disappearance, local leaders fear, could send local economies reeling.

There’s been an immediate impact — Crawford said layoff notices have already gone out to seven Heinz employees in the traffic department, and there are reports of car dealers having purchase orders for new vehicles cancelled by worried workers....

http://blogs.windsorstar.com/2013/11/15/talks-with-premier-failed-to-sto...

 

abnormal

lagatta wrote:

I doubt it is illegal to have an intermediate size between 500g and 1kg (who says 1000g?) The fishy sizes are not round figures.

If it was, why would we see sizes like "454 grams" or "330 ml"

Fact is, if you want to comparison shop, take a calculator with you AND know how to covert between grams and ounces as well as ounces an mils.

lagatta

454g is a lb disguised as metric. We simply shouldn't be using ounces any more. Only the Yanks do, and it is a ridiculous system.

paolo

Town reels as heinz announces closure

At first, there was stunned silence.

Then came the cursing. Then, some chairs were thrown.

About 300 workers at Leamington's Heinz plant - the main reason for the title of Tomato Town and a corporate cornerstone from more than a century - were summoned to a meeting with management in the cafeteria at 2:30 p.m. Thursday afternoon to learn the plant will close next June.

"You don't suspect it any day when you walk in to work," Kyle Gould, 27, an eight-year employee of the plant, said minutes after the grim news was delivered.

The night shift got the same grim news at a later meeting....

http://www.windsorstar.com/news/Town+reels+heinz+announces+closure/91694...

paolo

Leamington Reacts To Heinz Closure

The announcement of the Heinz closure is hitting the community of Leamington hard.

“I’m shocked,” says Leamington resident Rosie Cardoso. “It’s like losing part of your family I guess, it’s really hard.”

Lori-Anne Granger can’t imagine what the town will look like without Heinz. “You think about the summer and August, all the tomato wagons from the fields and then you go by Heinz and the smell in the air I just can’t imagine what it’s going to be like without it.”

The Leamington Heinz factory is expected to close June 2014.

http://blackburnnews.com/windsor/windsor-news/2013/11/15/leamington-reac...

paolo

..this article is from better farming. no one is allowed to copy and material from the site but sharing the link is ok.

http://www.betterfarming.com/online-news/heinz-plant-closure-expected-ha...

paolo

Heinz to close Ontario plant, leaving 740 out of work

quote:

“It’s the heart of Leamington … It’s devastating to the membership, it’s devastating to this town,” said Robert Crawford, president of United Food & Commercial Workers Canada, local 459 which represents the Heinz employees in Leamington, Ont. “Didn’t see this one coming.”

Walter Brown, a Leamington tomato farmer who also serves as a director on the Ontario Processing Vegetable Growers Board, said the closure “guts the industry” cutting the tonnage of tomatoes required in half. There are 46 farmers who have been contracted to produce millions of pounds of tomatoes to supply the plant, he said.

Many tomato farmers have invested “huge amounts” of money in land, irrigation, machinery and other aspects of their operation, he said.

“We’ll be looking at seeing whether Heinz is willing to compensate growers for some of this loss,” said Mr. Brown, who is also the chair of the board’s tomato contract negotiating committee. If not, they may consider taking legal action, such as suing for breach of contract, he said....

http://business.financialpost.com/2013/11/14/heinz-leamington-job-cuts/

paolo

..there's even a song re leamington .

The Ketchup Song - Stompin' Tom Connors

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=STv0sBwo6Do


paolo

Heinz Plant Closure Throws Leamington into Economic Shock

quote:

Eric Hoskins, Ontario’s Minister of Development, Trade and Employment, said in a statement on Thursday afternoon that the province is ready and willing to offer support and resources to the affected workers in Leamington. But what type of support will be available?

Leamington area residents, workers and farmers will require transitional support as they begin to grapple with questions of what to do next.  Should workers go back to school for retraining? And what about the 45+ farmers with production contracts for next year?  Will the contracts be honoured?  Will these farmers need to grow other crops?  The cost of transitioning to other crops can be exorbitant as the equipment used to plant and harvest field tomatoes is unique to any other.

Now that the axe has fallen on Leamington’s biggest employer, it’s time for the province to step up with serious measures. This most certainly will challenge Premier Kathleen Wynne’s dual role as Minister of Agriculture. Working with the community to transition to a new, possibly more diverse economic base will be critical to ensure the stability of the community.

In 2010, the Metcalf Foundation put forward policy proposals to help nurture and grow Ontario’s fruit and vegetable processing industry.  The report recommended a series of proposals meant to restore and stabilize Ontario’s medium-sized food processors and encourage a regional structure for food processing in the future. Those proposals, and others, are worth considering today because one thing is certain: doing nothing cannot be an option...

http://behindthenumbers.ca/2013/11/15/heinz-plant-closure-throws-leaming...


paolo

..here's a pertinent 2009 history/report from canadian dimension

Leamington, Ontario: Bloom or Bust

quote:

Labourers, Not Citizens

The 4000 Mexican farm labourers that come to Leamington to harvest up to half a billion tomatoes a year are not afforded the same means for making Canada their place. Since 1974, an agreement between the Canadian and Mexican governments and private sector has established the conditions under which Mexican workers come to and work and live in Leamington. Min Sook Lee’s 2003 National Film Board film, El Contrato or The Contract, illustrated poignantly the exploitation of this new migrant Leamington population. She narrates in the film, “They are wanted as labourers, not as citizens. The program only accepts men who are married, with less than a grade school education and with strong ties and families back home, men who will go back after months of painful separation.”

In 2002, a workers’ centre opened in Leamington, offering counsel and advocacy for the farm labourers. In 2003, the time of the filming of El Contrato, the migrant farm workers worked seven days a week, ten hours a day for a flat rate of $7.25 per hour, no overtime, no holidays....

http://canadiandimension.com/articles/2479/

paolo

..this video has one report after the other

Heinz to close Leamington, Ont. plant; hundreds of jobs lost

video

http://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/heinz-to-close-leamington-ont-plant-hundred...

Bacchus

Its more than 70 workers. Its another 250 part time and seasonal workers on top of that

Unionist

paolo wrote:

..here's a pertinent 2009 history/report from canadian dimension

Leamington, Ontario: Bloom or Bust

quote:

Labourers, Not Citizens

That's amazing, thanks for that, paolo. How easily we forget who the real underclass is in these situations.

 

Red Winnipeg

Perkins wrote:

@Red Winnipeg

Should I prepare to be lectured about the evils of non-tariff barriers?

No, absolutely not. Hanley said in his letter that the law is a "sensible requirement" but the only thing that I can think of that is sensible about it is that it bars American products from the Canadian market. So, why doesn't he (and the law) just say that? ETA: If the purpose of the law is to bar American products, then a person sounds stupid defending the law without mentioning WHY the law makes sense. It would be like advocating for a traffic law that is designed to reduce accidents but failing to mention, when advocating for the law, that the law will reduce accidents.

quizzical

were there any Leamingtons and Ontarians fighting for the lost forest industry jobs in BC? what was it 'bout 140,000 lost when all was said and done?!!!!!!

can you imagine what happened and is still happening in communities across BC? to the families and business owners? 

like what happened here in my town and across BC Ontarians can move and work on the new pipe lines going in. they need 1000's of workers they say.

i'm not trying to be too insensitive but moving to work is what people in the Atlantic provinces and BC have had to do for quite awhile if they want to eat. if Ontarians have to too...

paolo

paolo wrote:

"Today's announcement is another example of a transnational private equity firm swooping in to a Canadian community and sucking up the hard-earned value of an operation that was built by generations of hard-working Canadian and their families," adds Meinema. "This latest closure is another strong example of why our federal government desperately needs to review and reform existing foreign investment legislation, and to introduce a new approach that finally puts Canadians and the well-being of their communities first."

paolo wrote:

Heinz Plant Closure Throws Leamington into Economic Shock

quote:

Free Trade agreements and corporate buyouts have taken a heavy toll on the fruit and vegetable processing industry in Ontario.  Not only can Heinz now sell all the ketchup Canadians can consume with just a few days production at one of its large US plants, but the private purchase of the H. J. Heinz Company by Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway and 3G Capital was a precursor to a war on costs at the expense of long term sustainability and community partnership.

..michael hudson and max keiser describes this proceedure perfectly in their writings and rants. it is easy to suggest legislative change but that is nowhere on the horizon. so what do we do? for me it's finding a way to successfully intervene in this process. sometimes sparks are lit and many others become involved. there is not as much difference as it might seem between stopping corporations here or stopping them from building pipelines or from fracking.

David Young

Is Leamington in the federal riding of Chatam-Essex-Kent or Essex?

How is this going to play with a minority government at Queen's Park?

Will this have federal ramifications?

 

This plant closing and the shutting of the forestry in BC are also expressions of the globalized capitalist race to the bottom. Their profits grow on cheap labour and less regulation. The massive limits of the Atlantic fisheries is a little different as it rests on the results of over fishing. I remember going to toast towns in eastern California. The towns were built on the mines and when the ore ran out the people left. Much of human history is people moving for work but today there are very few places to move too. What I really do not understand is capitalist market needs consumers and low wage people have very little disposable income. Who is going to buy all the stuff?

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