Fair Lawn will miss 600 jobs, sweet aromas as Nabisco closes Oreos plant
The sweet smell of baked goods that has wafted over Fair Lawn since the Nabisco plant opened in 1958 will fade away this summer when the plant is shut down.
Mondelēz International on Thursday told the 600 employees at the facility along Route 208 that a final decision was made to shut it down. They also will close an 80-year-old plant in Atlanta in order to consolidate its east coast operations to a single facility in Richmond, Virginia. Plants in Illinois and Oregon will remain open.
Employees and their union were first notified in November that closing the plant was under consideration. The closure will happen in a phased approach with production ramped down and a complete shutdown sometime over the summer, spokeswoman Laurie M. Guzzinati told Townsquare Media News.
Guzzinati said that the decision was not made because of any unfriendly business climate in New Jersey.
"We still have a very strong commitment to New Jersey," Guzzinati said noting that Mondelēz's North American headquarters remains in East Hanover, where 1,500 are employed.
She said the Fair Lawn closure was not an easy decision to make.
"As we think about the future of snacking and consumer trends and capabilities for us those sites from both a geographical perspective we see an opportunity to bring things together in a single east coast hub," Guzzinati said. "As we look at the capabilities and infrastructure they are significantly outdated in both Fair Lawn and Atlanta. From a business perspective it made sound business sense to think about bringing together the east coast owned and operated footprint in Richmond."
Production of Oreos will be moved to Richmond. Teddy Grahams and Lorna Doones were also among the snacks made in Fair Lawn.
Salaried employees will receive severance and other benefits, including outplacement services and transition support, according to Guzzinati. Transition support for hourly employees, including severance and other benefits, are subject to agreements to be agreed upon with their union.
During his Friday coronavirus briefing, Gov. Phil Murphy said he was not pleased with the decision or the way Mondelēz has handled the situation.
"Not happy about this whatsoever and I don't like the way they're doing it. We had a lot of deliberations with these folks. There's hundreds of labor union folk who are going to be impacted by this," Murphy said.
Fair Lawn Mayor Kurt Peluso said the community will miss the sweet aromas, which have been a constant for him since childhood, as well as the jobs when the plant closes.
"I'm heartbroken for all those employees who have really been working hard during COVID-19 putting their health at risk, increasing production and the reward they get is a pink slip saying they're no longer going to be employed there," Peluso told Townsquare Media News.
Ever since Mondelēz announced the plant could close, Peluso said Murphy and U.S. Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J. 5th District, have been trying to get the company to reconsider through tax incentives.
Peluso said the closure will not have an impact on the tax base in Fair Lawn as Mondelēz will still own the property.
"We've had a number of businesses reach out with interest in that location," Peluso said.
Murphy during his briefing said he reached out to one CEO of an company he thought would be logical fit for the site.
Peluso said the bigger impact will be on restaurants where employees take their lunch or dinner.
Another loss will be more nostalgic as people connected Fair Lawn with the plant as they drove on Route 208. Peluso remembers taking a tour of the plant as a child and getting cookies at the end.
"They love having the smell of cookies on a warm spring day," he said. "Even yesterday, I was sleigh riding with my kids you could smell the cookies and it was really upsetting that you don't have many more days like that left."
EDITOR'S NOTE: A headline on an earlier version of this story should have said that 600 workers face layoffs.