Saturday, April 3, 2010

Nation's last sardine plant, in rural Maine, closes

Katharine Seelye reports in today's New York Times, dateline Prospect, Maine, population 642, on the closure of a Bumble Bee Foods sardine plant. They "why" of the closure has to do with "global competition, corporate consolidations and a general lack of appetite, at least in the United States, for sardines, despite their nutritional value and attempts by chefs to give them an image makeover." Bumble Bee also attributes it to federal regulations which limit harvests of Atlantic herring. The plant is by far the largest employer in the area, and this excerpt provides economic context for the its closure:
When its doors close, 128 people will lose their jobs, and the ripple will be felt throughout the local economy. Unemployment in Hancock County, where the plant is located, was above 12 percent in January, already higher than the state average.
The story features some rich quotes from the plant's long time employees, including several women and an operator of a large pressure cooking machine. Women dominate the packing process, earning up to $18 or $19/hour when paid for piece work.

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