Entenmann’s Outlet closure upsets workers, customers
The world’s largest baked goods company, headquartered in Mexico, is shutting down a bakery outlet in Allentown and some workers face an uncertain future.
In 2002, Mexican bakery giant Grupo Bimbo bought the western operations of George Weston, Ltd., which included the familiar doughnut and pastry brand Entenmann’s, as well as Thomas’, maker of English muffins.
In 2009, Bimbo bought George Weston’s eastern operations, bringing brands like the local Stroehmann under the umbrella of Bimbo Bakeries USA. BBU controls more than 60 bakeries and has more than 20,000 employees in the United States, according to its website.
One of these bakeries, Entenmann’s Bakery Outlet at 2441 W. Emmaus Ave., Allentown, is scheduled to close Sept. 25 of this year. Employees have been directed to an internal job posting board to search for open positions, but worry they’ll be unable to find a placement and will lose their seniority.
Contracts for BBU employees used to provide for seniority. For example, under a contract negotiated in 2016 and in force through mid-2019, BBU workers in Washington state (represented by United Food and Commercial Workers Local 21) attained seniority after 90 calendar days with BBU.
In the event of a store closure, employees with positions slated for permanent elimination would be given the opportunity, by seniority, to “bump” into the store of the least senior employee within the jurisdiction of the UFCW 21 local. Further, no employee’s seniority would be broken by the employee exercising his “bumping” rights.
However, there are fewer Entenmann’s Bakery Outlet stores every year, leaving the Allentown employees hunting for store positions that may not exist.
Teamster Local 463 Secretary and Treasurer Bobby Ryder tells The Press BBU is changing its distribution strategy, shifting toward donating day-old baked goods instead of selling them through bakery outlet stores. BBU has closed hundreds of locations around the country in the past few years, including a few in the area served by Local 463.
“As the leases expire, they’re closing them,” Ryder said, noting employees are sometimes told BBU is “having problems with the landlord” or that “they keep raising the rent,” but suggesting these statements don’t tell the whole story.
Indeed, when The Press reached out to BBU, the company directed our inquiries to Buchanan Public Relations LLC, a crisis public relations firm in Bryn Mawr. We asked why the Allentown store was slated for closure and what provisions had been made for the employees.
The public relations firm did not answer our questions, providing a statement instead: “The Allentown outlet will close permanently on September 25, 2021, and we will redistribute products to other locations in the area. Our consumers can still enjoy all their favorite baked goods and are encouraged to use our outlet locator to find their nearest location.”
According to https://www.bimbobakeriesusa.com/outlet-locator, in addition to the Emmaus Avenue location, there are outlets in Easton, Erie, Exton, South Williamsport and Wilkes-Barre in Pennsylvania.
Ryder said the Allentown workers may be able to find new positions at BBU shipping depots or in bakeries, but that new placements in outlet stores are hard to come by.
Teamsters Local 463 has negotiated severance packages for employees unable to transfer.