A bittersweet goodbye.
Brooklyn will be saying goodbye to Sweet’N Low manufacturer Cumberland Packing Corp., an over 60-year fixture in Fort Greene.
The family-owned company announced on Friday, January 8, that it will be scaling back its Brooklyn facility in an effort to “transition out of the manufacturing and packaging businesses.
“Our family has been manufacturing and packaging our products here the same way for more than half a century,” said Cumberland’s President and CEO Steven Eisenstadt. “We ignored the experts who came in like clockwork to tell us we had to do things with fewer people. We passed up big offers to sell our brands to bigger conglomerates, in large part because we worried that the people who made up our company would be left without any other options.
“For a long time, it felt like we were some of the only manufacturers left in Brooklyn, but thankfully that’s changed in the last few years,” he went on. “This borough and this city will always be our home- as we move out of manufacturing, Cumberland will hone our focus on product development, marketing, distribution and sales here.”
However, according to UFCW Local 2013 —the union that represents Cumberland’s factory workers—the shuttering of the location means the loss of over 300 jobs.
“[The] announcement that Cumberland Packing is leaving Brooklyn is the equivalent of the Eisenstadt family packing up and running off with their millions in the middle of the night,” said Louis Mark Carotenuto, president of UFCW Local 2013. “Cumberland took millions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies in the last years. Pocketing the money and exporting hundreds of jobs is quite a thank-you present to New Yorkers.”
According to Cumberland, the company’s manufacturing and packaging functions have been “split” between its Brooklyn headquarters and other domestic ‘co-packing’ companies for decades. However, over the next year, domestic co-packers will take on the entirety of the operations. The company has stated that the departure from its manufacturing and packing functions is necessary in order to remain “competitive.”
Cumberland also noted that it will work closely with the Division of Employment and Workforce Solutions at the New York State Department of Labor “to help every employee who wants a new job.
“We want to work with the union to help everyone find a new job if they want one,” said Jeff Eisenstadt, a member of the board and Cumberland’s president and CEO from 1994 to 2009. “Small manufacturers have led an industry-wide resurgence in Brooklyn, and it is our intention to help our employees find positions among the thousands that these businesses have created.”
However, local elected officials have also expressed concern about the loss of employment.
“I am deeply concerned about the closure of the Cumberland Packing Corp., which provides jobs and economic stability for hundreds of working families,” said Public Advocate Letitia James. “The city must commit to doing everything possible to protect the livelihood of all those facing potential unemployment.”
“UFCW Local 2013 intends to pursue every possible avenue,” Carotenuto added. “Our fight for good paying, safe jobs is just beginning.”