Two years after being bought by a private equity group, AFL Web Printing in Voorhees closed today, leaving as many as 200 workers without jobs three weeks before Christmas.
The company printed newspapers, guide books, coupon books, and niche publications. Some of their clients have included the Catholic Star Herald, the Metro, Gloucester County Times, and The Jewish Week, among many others throughout the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions.
Calls to Jeffrey D. Patterson, AFL's chief financial officer, and Long Island, N.Y.-based Westbury Partners, were not returned.
Employees on their way into the office yesterday morning said they couldn't talk about the closing but some seemed on the verge of tears.
One woman, who did not want to give her name, said, "It's very hard before Christmas," before rushing into the office.
Employees said between 100 and 200 people worked at the plant.
In 2010, Westbury became a major shareholder of AFL, which also has a plant in Secaucus, Hudson County.
According to a news release on the company website, Westbury's investment was meant to accelerate growth. "We are fully committed to the long-term strategy and are thrilled at the opportunity to work with high-regarded and experienced leaderships," James W. Schubauer II, president of Westbury, said then.
In November 2010, AFL named a new president and CEO, Antoinette Franceschini, an executive with extensive newspaper industry experience. In 2011 Patterson was appointed CFO.
The company said the new leadership would bring a more customer-oriented focus and a new corporate culture.
The Record reported that the company recently laid off 49 in Voorhees and 14 in Secaucus after losing two contracts worth $10 million.
The laid-off employees included press operators and workers in finance and administration, sales and customer service, and shipping and handling.
Patrick LoPresti, president of Local 1-L of the Amalgamated Lithographers of America, which represents some of the workers, said AFL had lost the contract to print copies of Metro, a free newspaper handed to commuters in New York and Philadelphia.
"I hate to see the jobs lost," he said of the Voorhees closing.
The union has been trying to negotiate a contract with the company since workers voted to unionize in August 2010.