Oscar Mayer retirees not surprised by plant’s closure

Northside business walk planned to test Oscar Mayer loss impact

For a group of retired Oscar Mayer workers packing bags for the Berbee Derbee 5K run on Thanksgiving today, the news their former employer is shutting down wasn’t really surprising.

“It’s inevitable that at some point in time it would probably bite the bullet,” retired Oscar Mayer employee Rick Jackson said. 

Retired since 2001, Jackson was a third generation employee at the plant, with a son-in-law who was laid off last week when the news came down. 

“I grew up as an Oscar Mayer child on the east side,” Jackson said. “As a kid you never had to go far to find another family that worked at the plant.”

Many employees saw the recent series of corporate buyouts and mergers the company went through as stripping Oscar Mayer of its identity as a family business.

“I remember my father talking about one of the Mayers coming around at Christmas time, shaking everyone’s hand,” Jackson said.

“A lot of us took an early buyout in 1996 and we’ve all said we got out at the right time,” retired Oscar Mayer employee Dave Grothman said.

Despite all this, the former workers are still proud of the legacy they created.

“It was a great company that made great products,” Grothman said. “We were all a part of building that.”