July 31, 2016
By Steven Wishnia and Neal Tepel
Vineland, NJ – General Mills announced “tentative” plans July 21 to close Progresso’s South Jersey soup cannery here next summer, a move that would cost 370 workers their jobs.
The company said in a statement that it plans to “transfer production to other U.S. facilities to eliminate excess soup capacity.” The announcement surprised both workers and officials of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 152, who ratified a four-year contract in May. “People here are angry and I don’t blame them,” said Local 152 President Brian String. “During four months of bargaining, the company never hinted that this plant might close. Its negotiators never asked for concessions that our members surely would have granted to keep the plant open.” He said he and area elected officials, including Rep. Frank LoBiondo, would try to convince General Mills to keep the plant open. LoBiondo, however, said that company officials had “made it pretty clear… that the decision is irreversible.” Progresso opened its first Vineland cannery in 1942. The two local families that founded the business sold it in 1969, and General Mills acquired the brand in 2001. Read more