Over 100 workers will be laid off when yearbook printing and publishing plant closes on May 17
By Reggie Ellis
VISALIA – More than 100 workers were notified last week they will be laid off after Jostens announced it would be permanently closing its Visalia plant.
Jostens’ attorney, Cate Heaven Young, notified the city of Visalia of the facility’s closure on April 18 in compliance with the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN). The letter gives the city a 30-day notice of the closure to mobilize support for laid off workers. In the letter, Young stated that 110 employees working in 55 positions will be permanently laid off at the plant.
In an April 17 letter to its employees, Jostens’ Human Resources Department said none of the employees will be moved to other positions within the company as there are no “bumping rights” that would allow the Visalia employees to take another job elsewhere based on seniority as there are no unions at the site, located at 231 S. Kelsey St. off Plaza Drive in Visalia. Most layoffs will take effect on May 17 with a few employees kept on longer to facilitate the closure of the facility. Employees’ last paychecks will include wages earned through the last day and a lump sum of accrued and unused time off.
The letter confirmed that the closure was due to the pandemic: “As you know, most of Jostens’ business is focused on schools and the annual cycle of high school and college graduations. With the nation’s schools closed and graduation events in question as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, Jostens has experienced an unforeseen loss of business on a nationwide scale.”
The Tulare County Workforce Investment Board (WIB), which helps coordinate unemployment claims, training and re-employment efforts, reached out to the company last week. Nicola Wissler, a business resource specialist with WIB, said normally they would send their rapid response team to the plant to meet with employees about resources and options. During the pandemic, Wissler said WIB has shifted to a virtual video conference where employees can get help filing for unemployment or look for another job.
WIB executive director Adam Peck said The company’s primary products revolve around graduation ceremonies and sports, including yearbooks, publications, class rings for K-12 educational, and championship rings and trophies for college and professional sports. Yearbooks and other education publications are a huge part of the company’s revenue and were done at the Visalia plant, which served as Jostens’ printing and publishing arm. The company is headquartered in Minneapolis and still has two other operation centers in Clarksville, Tenn. and Sedalia, Mo.
Like most local school district, Visalia Unified was in the midst of working with Jostens on yearbooks at every grade level and school as well as caps and gowns for graduates of its four high schools and continuation high school. Superintendent Tamara Ravalin said the yearbooks were in various stages, with some being completed and others still in the works.
“Jostens is still working with us to complete those plans,” Ravalin said.
Jostens did not respond to questions about how it would complete and distribute the projects without the Visalia plant as of press time.
Jostens is the latest of several surprise closures with massive layoffs in the last three years. In 2017, medical instrument manufacturer Beckman Coulter announced it was closing its Porterville plant and laying off 150 workers. Later that same year, Tulare Regional Medical Center voluntarily shut down the hospital in order to cut ties with its management company and declared bankruptcy. Over 500 staff were laid off, although many of them found employment elsewhere as healthcare workers area always in high demand. In 2018, L.E. Cooke and TreeHouse Foods closed in Visalia, laying off 278 and 297 people respectively.