Layoffs To Impact Over 300 Wells Dunkirk Workers

Wells is pictured at its Dunkirk location. P-J file photo

Wells Enterprises will begin laying off nearly 320 employees at its ice cream plant in Dunkirk at the end of the year.

The Iowa-based Wells confirmed in July that it planned to “scale back operations” next year by reducing its production lines from about 20 to five. At the time, the company said it would continue normal operations at the Dunkirk plant — located at 1 Ice Cream Dr. — for the remainder of this year.

As part of the federally required Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, commonly known as WARN notices, Wells said 319 employees will be affected by the plant layoff in Dunkirk. According to the notice, posted Tuesday by the New York State Department of Labor, separation of employees will begin Dec. 31 or the “14-day period commencing on that date.”

Wells did not specify in July how many employees would be impacted by the reduction in production lines. It’s also not clear where in the plant the affected employees work.

In a statement to the OBSERVER, the company said: “Wells Enterprises is always evaluating and evolving our business strategies to ensure the long-term sustainability of our organization and to meet consumer demand for our products. As market trends shift in our industry, we adapt and optimize our operations to ensure continued success of our business. We recently completed a comprehensive review of our manufacturing footprint and our needs to support our overall business strategy.”

Wells Enterprises is the largest family-owned ice cream and frozen treat manufacturer in the country.

Locally, employees are part of Teamsters Local 264, an affiliate of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. A call to Local 264 for comment on the layoffs was not immediately returned Wednesday.

News of the planned layoffs caught some officials by surprise.

Dunkirk Mayor Wilfred Rosas said he was told that most of the workers impacted would be offered positions at other Wells facilities. On its website, the company lists its headquarters and production facilities as being in the “Ice Cream Capital of the World,” that being Le Mars, Iowa. It has an employment office in Sioux City, Iowa.

In addition to Dunkirk, Wells also has a production facility in Henderson, Nevada.

In a conversation with Wells’ CEO, Mike Wells, Rosas was told the products they manufacture in Dunkirk can be done at another facility. “He said they need to restrategize what they are doing here,” Rosas said in July.

“I told him I was disappointed,” he added.

Wells acquired the Dunkirk facility, formerly Fieldbrook Foods, in 2019. It invested $87 million in a project to add manufacturing lines, make upgrades and create up to 70 new jobs. National Grid announced a $750,000 economic development grant for the project in January 2021.

Wells held an employment fair at the Clarion Hotel in May 2021. Company President and CEO Michael Wells said at the time, “We have more than 700 team members here in Dunkirk and we are looking to add to our ice cream team.”

He added, “We’re committed to being a good employer and community partner, and by offering stable career opportunities and building our relationships with the broader Dunkirk area.”


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