Keurig Dr Pepper

Eighty-two employees at Keurig Dr Pepper’s Waterbury facility are out of a job, weeks after the company paid dividends to stockholders for the first time.

The Vermont Department of Labor announced the layoffs, which include a total of 118 Keurig Dr Pepper employees across the company’s three Vermont locations, with Waterbury workers taking the brunt of the cuts.

“This is an important step for us, and is part of our reorganization plan,” said Katie Gilroy, director of corporate communications for Keurig Dr Pepper.

In July, Keurig Green Mountain — which produces single-serving coffee pods commonly referred to as K-cups — merged with Dr Pepper Snapple Group to form Keurig Dr Pepper.

In addition to coffee, the new company offers an array of potable products, from A&W Root Beer to Yoo-Hoo Chocolate Drink, and expects to generate $11 billion in annual revenue.

However, in Waterbury, the job cuts are happening for a very different reason.

The Waterbury location is home to the research and development arm of the company. Going forward, the company will perform that work at other production facilities, Gilroy said.

According to Gilroy, Keurig Dr Pepper employs about 1,000 people in Vermont at facilities in Waterbury, Essex and Williston. Gilroy declined to identify the number of employees at each facility, or how many workers would remain at the Waterbury location.

The layoffs are among the largest in Vermont in 2018. In June, tech manufacturer Global Foundries announced it was laying off 118 people. In October, Entergy Nuclear announced it would lay off 130 workers.

Good news for investors

The layoffs, announced Oct. 25, came less than a week after Keurig Dr Pepper paid shareholders a dividend for the first time.

On Oct. 19, the company paid out dividends of 15 cents per share to investors who held the stock on Oct. 5. The company plans to issue 15-cent dividends every economic quarter.

Gilroy said there is no connection between the layoffs and the dividends being paid to investors.

State response

State law requires an employer planning to lay off 50 or more employees over a 90-day period to notify the Agency of Commerce and the Department of Labor of the job cuts no more than 45 days before the last day of work.

In this case, workers will be paid through Jan. 4, according to Lindsay Kurrle, state labor commissioner. In some cases, workers have been told they do not need to return; in other cases, the employees will continue to work until Jan. 4, Kurrle said.

As it does with other mass layoffs, the Department of Labor has offered to come to the affected workplaces and offer counseling on writing resumés and job-interviewing skills, as well as referrals to available jobs.

If affected employees wish, they may also visit one of the Department of Labor’s 12 Career Resource Centers, with the closest locations in Barre, Burlington and Morrisville.

Gilroy said Department of Labor staff would be welcome to meet with affected workers at the three Keurig Dr Pepper facilities.

“The Agency of Commerce and the Department of Labor stand ready to help affected workers and connect them with employers who are looking for workers,” Kurrle said. “We are hearing from employers around the state that they are looking to hire, from entry level to highly skilled.”

In a statement, Gov. Phil Scott responded to news of the job cuts.

“This news serves as a reminder that we must continue to make Vermont a more affordable and business-friendly state for employers, and their employees,” Scott said. “We must do everything we can to strengthen the job market and job security for the families of our state.”

Local response

State Rep. Tom Stevens, D-Waterbury, has witnessed multiple triple-digit layoff announcements before.

In 2016, Keurig Green Mountain laid off 108 workers after announcing the cancellation of the Keurig KOLD, a home-based, cold-drink delivery system.

That round of layoffs followed the loss of 100 jobs at Keurig Green Mountain in 2015.

“Keurig Dr Pepper is an $11 billion company and this is a small adjustment for them, but this has a great impact upon us. Hopefully, this isn’t part of a larger trend,” Stevens said. “I’m confident that the people being laid off will have no trouble finding work with the aid of Keurig and the Department of Labor.”

Alyssa Johnson, economic development director for Waterbury, noted the longtime benefit of the coffee roasting facility to the town.

“Keurig has been an economic driver in this town, going back to 1981 when they were Green Mountain Coffee Roasters,” Johnson said. “While it (the layoffs) is certainly a hit, with 1,000 state workers and many other businesses, I think the economy of Waterbury is on solid ground.”

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