End of an era for Schneiders
From the Waterloo Region Record
Ninety years of production came to an end at Kitchener’s landmark Schneiders meat plant Thursday, as the very last pack of bologna rolled off the line and was celebrated by teary-eyed employees. Three and a half years after Maple Leaf Foods announced it was closing the aging factory, cutting 1,200 jobs, workers in hard hats and blue coveralls crowded around the final production run to watch their plant fade into history.
Someone shouted “that’s the last log” as dozens lined up along the conveyor belt to take pictures. Plant manager Rick Larose, who joined at 18 and never left, signed the final package of Schneiders bologna and told his workers he was proud of them. That last tube of bologna will be donated to the Waterloo Region Museum, along with 125 years of company artifacts that will be preserved thanks to a $200,000 grant from owner Maple Leaf Foods. That includes artifacts from early meat grinders to Schneiders advertising through the decades.
With production now finished, the lunchroom will serve up the last box of bologna on Friday, as the final few workers left at the plant clean out their lockers and say their goodbyes.
“I’ve been prepping myself for this day,” Larose said, “but I don’t know if it’s really hit me yet. … I bought my first house at 21, got married and had a great life thanks to this place.”
Dennis Lesperance, president of the plant’s employee association, worried Waterloo Region may never see another company quite like Schneiders again — a business known for its unique culture of multi-generational employees, family values and co-operative relationship with its internal union.