The reporting I did for my story last week on the North Lawrence Dairy closure
left me worried—about the 132 laid-off workers, the local community, and the dairy farmers who’d face higher costs and potentially lower milk prices as one more processing plant disappeared.
So when I read this morning in the Daily Courier-Observer that the Buffalo-based Upstate Niagara Cooperative has officially bought the plant, I was slightly overwhelmed with relief.
We’ll know more as time goes on, but here’s what we know so far: Yesterday, the president of Teamsters Local 687, the union that represents the plant’s workers, told the Courier-Observer that Upstate Niagara had bought the plant. Brian Hammond said the company plans to continue to make yogurt at the plant (it was formerly the production site of Breyer’s Yogurt); and that they’re hoping to ramp production back up by early August. When I spoke to Hammond this morning he said at least 25 workers will be called back.
Upstate Niagara’s spokeswoman, Eva Balasz, wasn’t available when the Courier-Observer called or when I called this morning, but I’ll be keeping on that to get the company’s take.
There have been many rumors about a buyer for the plant since Healthy Food Holdings, Inc., announced in January they’d be shutting it down—but no one was “officially” interested until earlier this week when Upstate Niagara revealed they were eyeing the plant.
Now, here’s what we don’t know: At capacity, the plant can accommodate 200 workers, and more than 100 have been laid off in the recent closure. It’s not at all clear how many of the former Breyer’s employees—many of whom have been working at the plant for decades—will, ultimately, be rehired.
Upstate Niagara may hire fewer employees, or they may make new hires. I’m not quite sure what the labor implications are of the latter possibility, but I’ll be looking into it when the hiring process starts up.
Whew. Very, very good news. We watchfully wait to know more, and we’ll have more on this Monday on the Eight O’Clock Hour.