A scrum of protesters and factory workers set to lose their jobs descended on a Brooklyn factory Wednesday, urging Maramont Corporation, which has supplied meals to New York City public schools for years, to reconsider its decision to move production to Pennsylvania.
Maramont's announcement that it would be laying off more than 140 workers has angered residents of Brooklyn's Sunset Park neighborhood and city officials, given that the company has benefited from a slew of city contracts going back at least to the 1990s. The company has said it will relocate its production to Moosic, Pa.,, just outside Scranton, presumably a much cheaper labor market than New York City.
According to Cara Noel, spokeswoman for the worker advocacy group United NY, the layoffs are set to begin this month and will continue through November. Noel says more than 30 of the workers have been with the company for over a decade, with some having been there for 26 years. Most of them are union workers who assemble and package meals for distribution.
"They're taking their taxpayer dollars to Pennsylvania, and their laying off workers, too," Noel said. "Many of the employees actually live in Sunset Park, so the job losses will hurt the neighborhood."
Maramont is a subsidiary of Preferred Meals Systems, a ready-to-eat meals provider listed as a holding of private equity group Swander Pace Capital. Investment bank Goldman Sachs also owns a piece of the company, although a Goldman spokesperson said that the firm has a "passive minority investment" and that it makes no management decisions.
A database of New York City vendor contracts shows that Maramont has received $175 million worth of city contracts during the last decade. The most recent was a $5 million contract inked with the city's education department in 2008; no start or end date is listed for that contract.
"It's especially galling that New York City contracts would continue paying for manufacturing jobs that would no longer be performed by New Yorkers," Rep. Jerry Nadler (N.Y.-D) said Wednesday.
Maramont's decision has brought heat from other New York politicians, with City Council Speaker Christine Quinn saying she would no longer support the company's contracts.
A woman who answered the phone at Maramont said no one was available to comment at the time. In a previous statement, the company said, "The decision to relocate the Brooklyn manufacturing has been a very difficult, but necessary move for the company."