HARRISBURG, Pa. -- Hershey, the nation's largest candymaker, said it will close a California plant with 575 workers, the fourth such closure announced in less than three months as it seeks to cut operating costs and expand overseas.
Workers were told Monday they will lose their jobs when the plant is shut down by early next year, The Hershey Co. said.
The Oakdale plant is operating at less than 40 percent of its capacity, company spokesman Kirk Saville said.
The chocolate factory will close in January 2008, with some lines shutting down as early as this fall, said John Souza of Teamsters Local 386 in Modesto, which represents the plant's workers.
Hershey has operated the plant since 1965. It makes Hershey's Kisses, Reese's peanut butter cups, chocolate syrup and other products.
Hershey announced a restructuring plan on Feb. 15 that would cut its work force by 1,500 and production lines by one-third.
It is shifting some work to contractors and a plant being built in Mexico, and has formed joint ventures to begin making its products in China and India.
Since then, Hershey has said it will close plants in Reading, Pa., Naugatuck, Conn., and Smiths Falls, Ontario, while cutting as many as 900 of the 3,000 workers at its three hometown plants in Hershey.
The company last week reached a severance agreement with union workers at the Reading plant, offering two weeks' pay for each year of service, with a minimum payment for eight weeks and a maximum for 65 weeks.
Workers at the Oakdale plant said rumors have been circulating for months that the plant would be closed.
"I was one of the ones who was expecting it, but there were a lot of people in denial who took it really hard," Sal Martinez told the Modesto Bee newspaper. "There were a lot of people crying. It's shocking. It is so fast."
Hershey currently employs fewer than 13,000 people at 20 plants in the United States, Canada, Mexico and Brazil.
The planned cuts amount to 11.5 percent of that work force.