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Originally appear August 7, 2011 at 6:05 PM | Page adapted August 7, 2011 at 10:58 PM
TACOMA — Fresh out of aerial academy in 1973, Al Yerbury took a summer job topping bind jars at Nalley’s Fine Foods. His aboriginal job angry into a career there.
But aback the bulb bankrupt aftermost month, Tacoma’s Nalley Basin absent its namesake and the arena absent 160 stable, common jobs.
“You assignment at a abode for 38 years and again all of a abrupt you’re actuality told you are no best wanted,” said Yerbury, 56. “It’s a big shock to the system.”
Once a arch bounded aliment architect employing added than 800 people, Nalley’s gradually accomplished bearing chips, peanut adulate and pickles. The plant’s owners changed, orders fell off and cheaper substitutes displaced its articles on grocery shelves and in cafeterias.
But the bulb still produced a actual pantry, such as canned soups for grocery chains or 30-pound aboveboard tubs of mayonnaise for food-service companies.
And it fabricated the acclaimed Nalley’s chili, a Northwest cast that will now be bogus in Iowa. Nalley’s ancestor company, New Jersey-based Pinnacle Foods Group, is adorable to aggrandize it into new markets.
“It’s what happens as the abridgement develops and the blow of the apple develops,” said Bruce Mann, an economics assistant at the University of Puget Sound. “It’s a shame. It’s a abundant allotment of history.”
The Nalley’s workers afresh won a baby victory: Through their union, they approved and able for “trade acclimation assistance,” a federal allowances amalgamation that extends their unemployment and bloom benefits, helps them acquisition new jobs and can pay up to $22,000 per being for training for a new career.
Less than bisected of acceptable workers will booty advantage of it, admiral say, because for some it’s too alarming to accord up their old band of assignment and blueprint a new career. Also, about bisected the amalgamated workers were acceptable to retire with abounding benefits.
“I’m still afraid,” said Gwen Crittendon, 57, continuing afore two dozen colleagues aftermost ages at a affair organized by Teamsters Bounded 117. “But we’ve got to footfall out of the boat.”
Nearly a aeon of history
The red acrylic in the Nalley’s logo is crumbling fast at its 22-acre circuitous southwest of city Tacoma forth South 35th Street.
Founded in 1918 by Marcus Nalley, a adolescent chef active in Tacoma, the aggregation started authoritative potato chips. In the 1950s it opened a ample branch in what was again an abortive amplitude aloof alfresco burghal Tacoma. Because it was the aboriginal bulb there, the breadth became accepted as Nalley Valley.
Every summer, advisers recall, pungent, blue air wafted beyond the basin from accessible vats of pickles. Hundreds of melancholia workers showed up to application on an accumulation band from aurora to dusk.
“It was nonstop. The pickles aloof kept coming,” Yerbury said. “You could aroma it for miles.”
Yerbury and Crittendon both started in the alkali bulb in the 1970s. By then, the aggregation was no best locally owned: In the ’60s, Nalley’s had awash out to New York amassed W.R. Grace and Co.
Then the branch began accident ground: The chips band bankrupt in the mid-1990s. Again the peanut-butter band in 1998 afterwards Smuckers acquired the brand. Again the bind bulb in 2002.
That larboard the units authoritative dressings and canned soups and stews, including Nalley’s Chili and Brooks Beans.
“The big moneymaker in the basin was consistently the chili,” said Yerbury, a apparatus operator.
In 2009, workers heard their new employer was Pinnacle Foods, which is controlled by the New York private-equity abutting Blackstone Group. Pinnacle paid a appear $1.3 billion for Nalley’s ancestor company, Birds Eye Foods.
Then aloof weeks afore aftermost Christmas, Pinnacle admiral apoplectic assembly at the armpit to accompany all the advisers to a meeting.
The workers — some of whom allege bound English and immigrated from Asia and Latin America — heard that Pinnacle would abutting the bulb for acceptable the abutting summer. Gone were jobs that paid $15 to $20 an hour. Some wept.
“They said they could save almost $7 actor a year because they were afterpiece to their raw abstracts and their administration centers,” Yerbury said. “Economics is about the culprit.”
Mann, the economics professor, said lots of aliment processors accept circumscribed plants in the Midwest. The move by Nalley’s ancestor aggregation was “highly predictable,” he said. “Being on the West Coast is as far abroad from the civic markets they appetite to advertise to as you can get.”
Moving to Iowa
Days afterwards the Nalley’s workers got the news, Iowa’s governor appear accompaniment tax incentives for Pinnacle Foods’ amplification of its Fort Madison plant, which produces Armour canned meat and will accomplish Nalley’s chili.
The aggregation affairs to advance about $18.5 actor in the expansion, actualize 65 new jobs and absorb the 431 jobs already there, Gov. Chet Culver said.
A Pinnacle backer said that bulb “has the best assembly capabilities and is afterpiece to the antecedent of ingredients.”
The capital bazaar for Nalley’s cast articles is still the Northwest, according to the company.
Rob DeRosa, a coordinator for Teamsters Bounded 117, which represents best of the Nalley’s workers, said the move “makes actually no sense.”
The Tacoma bulb will be put on the bazaar this fall. The armpit is served by abuse and is abutting to the Port of Tacoma, authoritative it adorable to manufacturers and distributors.
“It’s in a abundant breadth to get on the highways,” said Dave Zepponi, admiral of the Northwest Aliment Processors Association. “That acreage is account an abominable lot of money for another uses.”
Laid-off Nalley’s workers afresh aggregate in Teamsters Bounded 117’s Tacoma anteroom and listened to accompaniment admiral explain new trade-adjustment allowances they won because of a Teamsters petition.
The Teamsters abhorrent the layoffs on ascent imports of aggressive canned soups, citation Commerce Administration data. On July 8, the Activity Administration concurred, adage the added imports “contributed importantly” to the layoffs and declivity in sales.
The administration declared all the workers — alike acting ones — acceptable for the appropriate benefits, adage a cogent allotment were 50 or older, with abilities not in aerial demand.
For its part, Pinnacle Foods hasn’t active imports in the abatement or cease of the Tacoma plant.
Yerbury and his colleagues apperceive they face the affliction job bazaar of their lives.
Sam Ramos, 43, who formed the graveyard about-face on the plant’s sanitation crew, said he didn’t appetite to accept to attempt with adolescent guys for chiral activity jobs.
“I’m not accepting any younger,” he said. “I’d like to do article in the medical field, maybe X-ray artisan or pharmacy technician.”
Yupin Chianchitlert, 51, a Thai immigrant who was a Nalley’s assembly supervisor, doesn’t appetite to abandon added than 20 years’ acquaintance in aliment accomplishment for a new career.
She additionally alone the abstraction of affective to Pinnacle’s Iowa bulb because her babe and grandchild alive here.
“I feel absolutely assured I can acquisition article in the area,” she said.
According to accompaniment officials, almost 90 percent of workers who accept in the trade-adjustment affairs acquisition a new job that pays 80 percent or added of their antecedent job’s allowance — like a third-generation logger from Shelton who retrained and became a flight ambassador in Alaska.
Yerbury said that at 56, he’s accepting a adamantine time chief whether to ability his aboriginal résumé or go aback to school. He is comatose at home with his chicken Labrador, Barney, and blockage in blow with above co-workers.
“Thirty-eight years was a continued time,” he said. “I’ll aloof see area it goes from there.”
Sanjay Bhatt: 206-464-3103 or [email protected]