DICK SCHMIDT / Sacramento Bee Staff Photo

The Campbell Soup Co. plant off Franklin Boulevard in south Sacramento is in the final stages of shutting down. A handful of workers will wrap things up within weeks, the company says. Soup production stopped in February.

Sacramento's Campbell Soup plant shutdown nearly complete

Published: Tuesday, Jul. 2, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 6B
Last Modified: Tuesday, Jul. 2, 2013 - 10:46 am

The shutdown of Campbell Soup Co. is nearly complete, with a handful of employees winding down affairs at what had been one of the proud industrial giants of greater Sacramento.

Company spokeswoman Carla Burigatto said Monday a few remaining employees are staffing the giant plant, handling warehouse chores. They'll remain on site for a few more weeks, she said.

The food processor had pegged Monday as the official shutdown date in its filings with the state Employment Development Department. But most workers have been gone for quite some time.

Soup production ended in early February. The last of the production – sauces and beverages – was wrapped up sometime in late April, according to Burigatto.

Campbell's closure represents one of the largest job losses in the Sacramento area in the past year, with some 700 unionized blue-collar jobs disappearing. It's especially painful for the Franklin Boulevard plant's blue-collar south Sacramento neighborhood, where Campbell has stood as a beacon of economic opportunity since 1947. The company put the factory up for sale in March.

With Campbell moving production to North Carolina, Texas and Ohio, the closure announcement last fall also revived the political debate about the cost of doing business in California.

Gov. Jerry Brown's aides said the plant was a victim of old age, not the California business climate. They noted that Campbell had just purchased a sprawling plant in Bakersfield.

Campbell officials said the Sacramento plant was the oldest and least efficient in the company.

In any event, the shutdown cost Sacramento about 700 hard-to-replace jobs, many paying $20 an hour or more.

Bill Walker of the Sacramento Employment & Training Agency said many of those uprooted workers have been at SETA's career centers, looking for work, and about 40 have enrolled in retraining programs.

While a few ex-workers have found new jobs, Walker said he's been told many of the ex-employees "are looking at retirement as an option. … It was a pretty mature workforce."

Officials with Teamsters Local 150, which represented the bulk of the Campbell workforce, couldn't be reached for comment.

Call The Bee's Dale Kasler, (916) 321-1066. Follow him on Twitter @dakasler.

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