The factory that makes Sweet'N Low is closing its Brooklyn plant, leaving 320 workers scrambling to protect their future. NY1's Na'eem Douglas filed the following report.
It's called Brooklyn home for decades. Now, the family-run Cumberland Packing plant will be phasing out packaging operations at its Fort Greene headquarters. Hundreds of workers will have to find new jobs.
Louis Mark Carotenuto, the president of the union that represents plant workers, says they were in the midst of negotiating a new contract when the news came.
"It caught us completely off guard," Carotenuto said. "It was kind of a blindside of an announcement. We've been in bargaining since before September."
The work done at the plant plays a big part in many New Yorkers' early morning routine. "Sweet'N Low" and "Sugar in the Raw" are packaged right here. The plant is located on - where else? - Cumberland Street, and has called Brooklyn home for generations. Many workers have been here almost as long.
"Nobody expect that today. It's not easy for the workers," said Antonio Ortiz, who has worked at the plant for more than 30 years.
Ortiz is not sure what the future will bring.
"Working for 34 years in that company. And many co-workers, 20, 15, 10, something like that," he said. "It's very hard for all workers and the families."
Representatives for Cumberland say they've fought off gentrification and buyouts for years in order to serve the community. The company is keeping its headquarters in Brooklyn and will work to help laid-off workers find new jobs, possibly just across the street at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
The mayor's office says the yard has a waiting list of companies ready to come in and replace the plant jobs, but said in part, “We are glad that even as their industry changes, Cumberland is keeping its head office with all its jobs right here in New York City."
Cumberland Packing says the jobs kept in Brooklyn will focus on marketing and product development. The packaging jobs will be phased out over the next year.