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Hershey extracts union concessions for new plant

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A Pennsylvania icon is shutting down, and unionized workers are on the move.

When the Hershey Co. decided to stop making chocolate at its 106-year-old factory in the heart of Hershey, the company faced the choice: Move all 1,500 jobs to other states, or cut about one-third of those positions and move the remaining workforce three miles to a more modern plant.

To make the numbers work and keep the company in Central Pennsylvania, Hershey asked the Chocolate Workers Union Local 464 to accept a seven-year contract that sacrificed some jobs while boosting pay for remaining workers. Although many workers knew a “yes” vote might cost them their livelihoods, few wanted to see a beloved Pennsylvania company flee to other states.

The deal was approved on a 1,317-to-95 vote. It contains built-in raises for workers who remain, and a limited number of severance packages for departing employees.

In return, the company will spend $200 million on an expansion of its Derry Township facility, where many of the former downtown workers will be transferred.

The old plant on East Chocolate Avenue will be rehabbed to house Hershey Co. administrative offices.

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