Farmer John’s Laid-Off Workers Offered Free Training and New Opportunities – Orange County Register
An estimated 2,000 workers displaced by the closure of a Farmer John meatpacking plant in Vernon are receiving help thanks to a Los Angeles County-led partnership aimed at training them for new jobs.
Parent company Smithfield Foods, which acquired Farmer John in 2017, announced it would close the facility this month, citing “the escalating costs of doing business in California.” The plant has been in operation for more than 90 years.
Smithfield, which first announced the closure in June 2022, said produce is now being packaged and trucked in from its Midwest facilities. Many employees have already been laid off.
Funded primarily by a $6.1 million grant from the State Employment Development Agency, LA County Representatives – along with UFCW Local 770, the Hospitality Training Academy and others – have hosted a series of job fairs aimed at helping Farmer John workers get the support and training they need to make the transition to well-paying union jobs.
Many of the jobs are in hospitality, others in construction.
More than finding work
County Supervisor Janice Hahn, who led the effort, said there is more to the partnership than just helping Farmer John’s employees Search work.
“Before workers even start speaking to employers or finding out about job training, we’re making sure they have everything they need to support their families now,” she said.
This includes connecting them to CalFresh benefits and healthcare through Covered California, helping them apply for unemployment benefits, and connecting them to housing benefits when needed.
“Many of these workers have worked at this meat packing plant for years, if not decades, doing strenuous work,” Hahn said. “And we hope that from this bad situation, we can open doors for people to start new careers and improve their quality of life.”
Liz Odendahl, Hahn’s communications director, said some of the employees received free training through the Hospitality Training Academy and are already working as chefs at USC. The academy operates training kitchens in LA and Santa Monica.
“You will make more money than before,” she said. “At Farmer John’s they were making $17.25 an hour, but the new job will pay $19.25 an hour. And the hospitality industry always needs employees in hotels, restaurants and airports. “
Adine Forman, executive director of the Hospitality Training Academy, said the academy offers everything from a one-day training course to obtaining a food handling certificate to an eight-week culinary apprenticeship program. The programs are primarily aimed at low-income residents of LA
Some displaced Farm John workers have already been enrolled in the program, she said, while others are interviewing to enroll.
“We have 100 percent placement in our programs,” Forman said. “USC has already hired eight people.”
The academy also places job seekers in some of the area’s upscale hotels, including the Beverly Wilshire, the Millennium Biltmore, and the Conrad Los Angeles, as well as airport concession jobs.
“A lot of these Farmer John workers were doing incredibly hard labor on the slaughterhouse floor,” Forman said. “We offer jobs that don’t involve working in a freezer at 20 degrees. They are good union jobs with good benefits and great employers.”
https://www.ocregister.com/2023/02/16/farmer-johns-laid-off-workers-offered-free-training-new-prospects/ Farmer John’s Laid-Off Workers Offered Free Training and New Opportunities – Orange County Register