The Kunzler & Co. plant along Manor Street in Lancaster.

News of the sale of Kunzler & Company Inc. meat processing plant in Lancaster city caught union leaders by surprise.

The news first surfaced as rumors the night of May 1, said Daniel Ross Jr., president, United Food & Commercial Workers Local 152. The Local represents 175 production and maintenance employees at Kunzler in Lancaster. Later that night, after inquiries to the company, Ross said the union received a letter from Kunzler informing the union of the company’s intention to be acquired by Hatfield-based Clemens Food Group on Monday. 

“This was the first time the Local had heard of the acquisition,” Ross said.

READ: Kunzler & Company, Inc. bought by Clemens Food Group

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The union’s three-year contract expired on April 4 and its members are operating under an extension. Ross said Local 152 had been in several negotiation sessions with Kunzler for a successor contract and there had been no mention of the acquisition. 

Ross said the union immediately followed up with communication to Kunzler asking that it be forwarded to the new owners.  He asked to schedule an introductory meeting and to continue negotiations. 

“Local 152 has valued a partnership with Kunzler & Co. which has developed over the many years of collective bargaining,” Ross said. “Local 152 intends to protect the interests of our hardworking members of the community who've provided dedicated service to Kunzler & Co. for many years.”

Another negotiating session is set for later this month. Ross said he is “cautiously optimistic” about the new owners. As of Tuesday morning, the union had not heard from Clemens.

Clemens Food Group is a vertically coordinated pork producer, the fifth largest in the country, with 5,000 employees in multiple states. The six-generation family-owned company has sister organizations that include feed milling, farming, processing, transportation and logistics. Its operations include a $47 million hog feed mill project in Union County

Clemens Food Group did not disclose details of the deal between the privately held companies. The company spokesperson said they would not answer any questions. 

In announcing the acquisition, Clemens Food Group said it would keep the Kunzler factories and the beloved Kunzler brand, which dates back to 1901.  The company has not said what will happen to employees as it integrates Kunzler’s Lancaster factory, located at its headquarters at 652 Manor St. and two Blair County factories as well as its headquarters employees.   ,

Clemens Food Group said the strategic locations of the plants align with its goals to expand support for Pennsylvania's agriculture and food processing industry.

Clemens pork brands include Hatfield, Farm Promise and Prima Porta. The privately held Clemens has about $2 billion in revenue annually and employs about 5,000 across multiple states. 

Kunzler, headquartered at 652 Manor St., had annual sales around $150 million and about 600 employees, 300 in Lancaster, in 2017. 

Led by Chris Kunzler III, Kunzler was founded by his great grandfather, Christian Kunzler, a German immigrant who invested his $700 life savings to start a sausage-making business in Lancaster city. 

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