Arif Jinha floats a great idea for Hershey’s plant


Since this was posted Arif Jinha has withdrawn his candidacy for the NDP.  The project noted here remains a great idea!

 

Arif Jinha, federal NDP candidate in the riding of Lanark-Frontenac-Lennox-Addington, sent this letter to members of his facebook group, outlining a terrific idea for the soon-to-be-closed Hershey’s plant in Smiths Falls:

 

Fair Trade in Smiths Falls

To members of Arif4MP Lanark Frontenac Lennox and Addington

Hi supporters of me! You are making my political head swell, really.
So here’s the thing. I’m sure most of you have heard about the upcoming closing of the Hershey’s Factory in Smiths Fall in 2008 – 500 jobs. This coincides with the ongoing closure of Rideau Regional – 800 jobs. 1300 jobs is 13% of the town’s population, which is already disparately poor by Canadian standards. That’s maybe 100,00 jobs in the NCR. The reason Hershey’s is closing is that the profit the factory makes is not as high for Hershey’s as it could be with low-wage labour in Mexico.
I have spoken with the workers at the factory and shared with them an idea I had, and had been thought of by others – one being an international development consultant who was there at the meeting.
The idea is to save some of the jobs, with potential for future job creation, by a combination of employee buyout and re-organizing into a Fair Trade chocolate producer. The Chocolate Museum that exists now would be transformed into an educational Fair Trade Exhibition. The workers saw the vision, but were understandably cautious as to their risks and the feasibility. We need a feasibility study and are trying to get the funds for it.
With my head already swelled by your support, I have to say that in theory it is a magnificent idea.
The end product would be a ‘manufactured in Canada by worker-owned company fair trade/local dairy’ chocolate. Guilt-free sin! It’s insanely marketable as a chocolate with a story. I have already named it Sweet Justice.
Globalization is killing manufacturing here, not to mention impoverishing farmers and expoliting poverty for comparative advantage in labour. This product would turn all those on their heads. Many times people have told me their fears that we focus too much on global problems when there are so many here. Of course, many would disagree given the comparative degradations. So, we get to satisfy all! And satisfaction is what chocolate is all about. Charities that sell chocolate for poor kids would know that there’s no child labour in the product, and they’re contributing to global and local prosperity.
Ok, long message, sorry about that. The problem is that though we’ve now met with the Deputy Minister of Economic Development, with an expert from Queen’s on employee buyout, the energy has been flat. No one has flat out ruled out this proposal, but given it’s greater complexity than other solutions like building condos, amusement park, a retail only Hershey store (talk about licking the crumbs of the one who walked on you!), I fear it will not happen.
So, it would cheer me up and motivate me to somehow,’make it happen’ if you write me and tell me how enthusiastic you are about a ‘manufactured in Canada by worker-owned company Fair Trade/Local Dairy Chocolate’.
Smiths Falls – The Chocolate Capital of Ontario, would not be the same if it is does not make chocolate! And the Legend it would be if it could be done would make it famous, thus sellling more chocolate and creating more jobs and lifting more producers out of poverty!! This is the subject of my first MA research paper, and we are still holding out hope for the funds that are needed from the province for the feasibility study.
So that is the reason I write you now, in the hopes that your enthusiasm allows me the energy to pursue a longshot. Let me know what you think.
Thank you so much!
Arif

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Smiths Falls, dairy farmers and Mexico – like Canada, hockey and palm trees (updated)


Update: Kudos to the people of Smiths Falls and area, who are clearly not going to lose Hershey without a spirited fight [1], [2], [3]. (The third link, Ottawa’s Sunday Sun, just so happens to highlight some of the corporate-speak, from earlier in the week, that I remarked about last evening [below]. To be fair, however, the Sun also has word of a compelling election year petition, circulated at yesterday’s rally, with some constructive – and, yes, construction – ideas for Premier Dalton McGuinty.)

Hershey’s kisses Monterrey’s ass

The underbelly of the aging NAFTA beast has been rearing its ugly head in the eastern Ontario town of Smiths Falls recently with the announcement by Hershey that its plant there, popular with tourists and locals alike, would be closing.

The company’s international headquarters, based in the Pennsylvania town which bears its name, calls the move - get this – part of “a comprehensive, three-year supply chain transformation program”.

The Easter Bunny will have an extra Hershey’s & Reece’s Pieces Candy Egg for the company MBA who thought up that bit of Orwellian biz-speak. Among the company’s goals, according to the business press, is the regaining of market share from archrival Mars.

Reese’s are from Hershey’s, M & M’s are from Mars – is there a book title in there somewhere?

Having blogged earlier today about urban issues, and yes I do live in a big city, I now must add my voice to those who see the family farm, and ancillary interests, being systematically killed by the ‘free trade’, Wal-martesque, McCorporate agri-business sector in North America.

Paranthetically, while I grew up in a suburban Montréal industrial town, the demographics of the language-based school system there meant that I was bussed to a rural, regional English-language high school whose students were mostly all either from families working small local farms or were employed by closely-related businesses. The same can be said for the area where Mom and Dad came from, twelve to fifteen miles from Smiths Falls. Living, and working as a reporter, in the Niagara Region in my 20s, too, sensitized me to issues of urban sprawl on unique agricultural lands. So, I hope, I have at least some empathy, if not direct knowledge, whereof I speak.

When a plant like Hershey’s closes in a small town it’s more than the company parking lot that empties out. There is a lot of milk on surrounding farms that will be looking for new markets. The Tim Horton’s that Hershey’s employees drive through (or “thru”) will see a difference. The independent retailers of Smiths Falls, already dominated by Wal-Mart and, to a lesser extent, the local Conservative Member of Parliament’s own Giant Tiger discount stores, will find few reasons to stay.

Hershey’s, whose Canadian operations, incidentally, have – for quite awhile now – been based in the Toronto-area mega-suburb of Mississauga, is (as part of this #$%# transformation) outsourcing production of some products and building a “cost-efficient” manufacturing plant in Monterrey, Mexico.

Hmmm…so the best eastern Ontario farmers could expect might be to have refrigerated rail cars of their milk being shipped to Mexico.

As if…

Meanwhile the well-paid, union workers at Hershey’s in Smiths Falls will be replaced…er supply-chain transformed… by sweatshop-equivalent jobs in Monterrey. An even better, principled, reason for Canadian tourists, who already seem to have targets on their backs there, to boycott Mexico.

Hershey’s latter-day Mississauga headquarters removed the Smiths Falls name from its candy wrappers years ago. Now it boasts of the Hershey Centre arena and its Ice Dogs hockey team in Hazel McCallionville.

You can still smell chocolate in the air as you travel into Smiths Falls…for now anyway. That’s the size of town it is.

You’ll still be able to smell some of the natural odours of dairy farms, even after Hershey’s closes, but – in addition to employment assistance programs for older workers who will be displaced – is it not time that this country, and this province, too, had better, more comprehensive agricultural policies which would make farming here better supported and more viable? The farm crisis is real. As farm families proudly declare, “Farmers feed cities”.

Meanwhile, as Montreal Simon reminds us in his comment below, the deep commercial integration of Canada-through the U.S.A.-to-Mexico is well underway. Hence, I’ll add a plug for one of my blogroll sites Vive Le Canada!

NO Deep integration!

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