Topeka — Hundreds of Jostens employees in Topeka are considering what to do next after the company surprised most of them by announcing it planned to move the plant's jobs and production to Tennessee.
The Minneapolis-based maker of yearbooks, class rings and similar products said the 372 production jobs in Topeka will be phased out starting in July, with the entire transition completed by January 2013. Jostens plans to keep 87 employees in Topeka, mainly in customer service, marketing and technical support.
The production work will move to a plant in Clarksville, Tenn., which will allow Jostens "to take advantage of improved technologies, innovation and workplace efficiencies," spokesman Richard Stoebe said.
The announcement came one year after Jostens cut 83 jobs in Topeka and moved production of diploma covers to a plant in Shelbyville, Tenn., The Topeka Capital-Journal reported.
Mike Vannordstrand, president of Graphics Communications Local 49-C, said rumors about a possible move have swirled since last year but Monday's announcement still shocked most employees.
"We thought we had at least another year or two," he said. "It hit us all as a surprise. We didn't think it was going to be this soon."
The union is negotiating a severance package for its bargaining unit employees. He said the printing department, which includes press and bindery, will leave in October, and the digital plant will be phased out by January 2013.
Doug Kinsinger, president and chief executive officer of the Greater Topeka Chamber of Commerce and Go Topeka, said his group will work with Jostens to find ways to maximize use of the plant, which has been in Topeka since 1969.
"I'm just in such a daze right now. It's surreal," said Gaylon Shannon, a bindery worker for Jostens for 19 years.
He said employees were told Monday that performance and productivity were not a factor in the decision.
"It was just a company decision," he said. "There have been rumors going around for a few months. We didn't really think it would happen."
Jostens employee Kevin Stovall, a father of three, has worked for Jostens for almost 14 years.
"It's a business decision, but you can't help but feel a little knife in the back," Stovall told KSNT.
"People feel betrayed, people feel let down, disappointed. I saw some people with tears in their eyes," said Stovall, whose last day is July 13.