Jays Employees Leave with Sour Taste

Jays Employees Leave with Sour Taste
Photo by Michael Puente
Jays Employees Leave with Sour Taste
Photo by Michael Puente

Jays Employees Leave with Sour Taste

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For 80 years, the maker of Jays potato chips has called the South Side of Chicago home. That’s about to change. The company will lock the doors of its South Side plant for good today.

ambi: truck sound

A delivery truck checks in at the front gate of the Jays plant at 99th Street and Cottage Grove Avenue. A huge sign with the familiar cursive ‘Jay’ and navy blue background, sits high atop the yellowish brick building.

By later this afternoon, most of this activity will cease as the company shutters its doors, laying off more than 200 workers.

For 11 years, Juana Garza worked here. With two small children at home, Garza has no idea what she’ll do next without her $11 an hour job.

GARZA: speaking in Spanish 

PUENTE (translation): She says she says All of us have families and we just can’t sit around. We have to look for other work to be able to feed our children.

Jays makes Jays and Krunchers  potato chips and O-ke-Doke popcorn.

A bankruptcy judge this week approved the sale of the company to a Pennsylvania company. the chips will still to be made, but not here, instead at a plant in a suburb of Louisville, Kentucky.

That has longtime employee Nikeeta Walls disgusted.

WALLS: This has been a Chicago brand since 1921 and for them to take it away from Chicago and 420 people are out of work. We’ve been having loyalty to this company and they had none to us. They showed us nothing. They showed us a letter and said adios.”

Community activists are criticizing the company for providing only a week’s worth of pay as severance, which is part of a deal worked out with the union.

For decades, Jays slogan has been ‘can’t stop eating them.”

Activists and soon-to-be former workers say Chicago should stop eating them in boycott of the plant’s closing.

I’m Michael Puente, Chicago Public Radio.