The faces of Quaker Oats: former employees continue to make career changes

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Today begins our Faces of Quaker Oats series as we share the stories and memories employees and community members have of a Danville plant that closed in June. Email Jennifer Bailey at to contribute.

DANVILLE In July, 58-year-old Troy Pate would have spent 36 years at the Quaker Oats plant in Danville.

After completing so many years of service with the company, Pate is receiving the equivalent of a year’s salary and benefits as compensation for the loss of work as a result of the plant closing.

I was one of the lucky ones, Pate said.

He is just one of more than 500 employees laid off when The Quaker Oats Co. and PepsiCo announced in April that the Danville plant, in operation for 55 years, will close on June 8.

Pate, who lives outside Georgetown, still worked with the union at Quaker Oats, having served as its financial secretary. The union is also closing.

Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union Local 347G represented workers at the Danville facility, where they produced a variety of Quaker products including Aunt Jemima pancake mix, Cap’n Crunch cereal and Quaker Oat Squares, Natural Granola and Chewy and Big Chewy granola bars.

Production was halted and, eventually, permanently shut down after a recall in December due to salmonella contamination at the facility.

After a detailed review, we determined that meeting our future production needs would require an extended shutdown for improvements and modernization,” Quaker Oats Co. officials said. “To continue the timely delivery of Quaker products trusted by consumers since 1877, we determined production will have to be moved permanently to other facilities.

Other Quaker Oats plants in the US include locations in Cedar Rapids, Iowa and Columbia, Mo.

As for the Danville employees left behind, they are trying to find their way forward.

“I’m getting ready to go to CDL (commercial driver’s license) class,” Pate said.

He will undergo semi-trailer driver training at Danville Area Community College. He plans to do local truck driving, such as for cereals.

Pate has a farmer friend who runs grain year round and had talked to him before about a retirement type job.

Pate still can’t believe what happened in the last few months.

It was shocking, he said of the plant’s closing. “It’s a little fix to get your life back.”

June 7 was the last official day for the employees.

Everyone’s gone, Pate said. It’s a bit sad.

He said the union maintains a Facebook page where members communicate and keep up with each other.

It’s like watching your family fall apart, Pate said.

Everyone is getting new jobs. I’m happy for them, he said, and goes in different directions.

Pate said some former Quaker employees he knows will go to the Kraft Heinz plant in Champaign, while others will go to the Subaru car plant in Lafayette, Ind., and some maintenance workers will go to the Elanco plant. , formerly Eli Lilly, in Indiana. .

Pate said many of them are also seeing bigger changes in their careers. They will take classes in nursing, computer programming, CDL, heating, ventilation and air conditioning and other activities.

He said DACC was looking to adjust its HVAC course to accommodate more students, and Parkland College also has courses.

Pate said he doesn’t know what will happen to the shuttered Danville plant.

It is for sale, he said, adding that the company will likely destroy it if it is not sold.

As employees were left to wonder what their future held, we don’t know, he said of the future of the shuttered locations.

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