Zacky Farms is just the latest big layoff affecting workers in the San Joaquin Valley

Zacky Farms is the latest headline in a string of 2018 plant and store closures that have cost more than 7,600 San Joaquin Valley workers paychecks.

From Stockton and Lodi in the north valley to Bakersfield and Tehachapi in the south, employers at nearly five dozen workplaces have filed layoff notices with the state Employment Development Department so far this year. All but eight involve companies that are laying off at least 50 employees, whether at a single site or multiple locations in the region.

California’s Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act generally requires a company to notify the state, and its employees, at least 60 days prior to a plant closing or mass layoff. The state law covers employers with at least 75 full- or part-time employees, and includes business closures affecting any number of employees or layoffs of 50 or more workers.

Poultry processor Zacky Farms filed for bankruptcy Tuesday, about two weeks after the company announced it was closing its Valley plants. The WARN notice filed by Zacky Farms was dated Oct. 26, which is also the date the company listed as the effective date of its layoffs – 323 in Fresno and 142 in Stockton. The notification was received by the state on Oct. 31. The company is being sued by one of its employees in a potential class-action case for failing to provide workers with the required 60-day notice.

The single largest permanent layoff notice this year in the region, by a wide margin, was the announcement in February by Seneca Foods Corporation that it would close its plant in Modesto, idling nearly 2,000 employees at the end of September.

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Nestle USA Inc. announced last month that it would have temporary closures of its ice cream manufacturing plants in Tulare and Bakersfield starting at the end of November. The company had a similar seasonal closure in 2017, explaining a ramping down of operations in the winter when there is less demand for ice cream. More than 1,000 workers are affected: 273 in Tulare and 769 in Bakersfield.

Earlier this year, Adventist Health announced the collective layoffs, effective in April, of nearly 700 employees at sites in Hanford, Reedley, Bakersfield and Tehachapi.

Financially troubled retailers Sears and Kmart, both owned by the same parent company, together have nearly 600 employees who will lose their jobs by the end of this year, according to the companies’ WARN notices. Kmart’s closure of stores in Clovis, Lemoore, Visalia, Modesto and Delano will affect 341 workers, while Sears closures in Merced, Modesto and Bakersfield will put 251 employees out of work.

Statewide, the EDD has so far received 607 WARN notices from employers for layoffs taking place at individual business locations in 2018, affecting nearly 58,000 workers – or an average of about 95 layoffs at each affected worksite.

Tim Sheehan: 559-441-6319; Twitter: @TimSheehanNews.
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