Archive for June, 2004

Maytag job cuts continues

June 29, 2004
Maytag job cuts continue
 
Date June 29, 2004
Section(s) Local News
   
 
By PETER HUSSMANN

Editor

Maytag Corp. continued its restructuring effort today as another round of employee terminations was under way at its corporate headquarters building.

Earlier this month, Maytag announced plans to cut 20 percent of its salaried workforce with a goal of removing $150 million in annual cost. The brunt of the 1,100 salary position eliminations were expected to come from the closure of its Hoover headquarters facility in North Canton, Ohio, and from downsizing employment levels within Maytag Appliances and corporate headquarters, both based in Newton. The reductions were also to be spread out over Maytag operations across the country.

Maytag spokesperson Lynne Dragomier would not comment on the job terminations under way in Newton but said they “will continue until the consolidation is complete.”

“Most of them will be completed by the end of June,” she said of the three-way merger of Hoover, Maytag Appliances and Maytag corporate. “It is continuing in both places. Positions are being affected as the business integration takes place.”

The corporate spokesperson also would not comment on the response by salaried workers to an offer to work at the Maytag production facility in Newton while the current strike between the company and UAW Local 997 goes on.

Late last week, salaried employees were offered an opportunity to work this week at the Newton production facility “in an effort to accommodate Maytag‘s customer product needs during the present work stoppage.” The offer called for salaried employees to work this week at the plant under their current salary levels.

Dragomier also would not state whether production is occurring at its Newton plant.

“The company does have contingency plans to meet customer needs,” she said. “We will implement it when it is needed.”

The corporate spokesperson was also mum on the status of talks between the company and the union.

Last week, union and management negotiators met in Chicago for two days of talks with the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, a federal agency set up to mediate labor disputes. At the conclusion of the meetings on Thursday, both sides said the talks would continue this week but did not state where or when the negotiations would resume.

More than 2,000 production workers are now on strike in Newton after contract negotiation talks broke off June 10. Maytag recalled more than 400 workers on layoff status, but the production employees rejected Maytag‘s offer to return to work and joined striking members on the picket line.

June 29, 2004
Why are washing machine prices so low?
 
Date June 29, 2004
Section(s) Columnists
By Wendell Wendt  
 
Maytag strike — those words in an opening sentence should double the number of persons who read this column. Here are some comments which I open are not slanted toward either the company or the union.

In 2004, a basic automatic washing machine sells for about the same price as 20 years ago, but an automobile sells for about three times as much as in 1984. How do you account for this difference? Here are some answers from a variety of people.

A Maytager on the picket line said, “There is less demand for a washing machine. People are willing to wash their clothes at a laundromat, but don’t want to ride in a taxi.”

A lawyer suggests there is a gentleman’s agreement among the auto companies to raise their prices every year.

A retired Maytag engineer says Maytag‘s competitors have moved their production overseas where they pay low wages. Therefore, they can make a satisfactory profit without an increase in price.

A newspaper employee observes that a washing machine is not a status symbol. When people buy a washer they put it away in a utility room or the basement, but a nice car is parked in the driveway for the neighbors to envy.

A Park Centre resident told me a washing machine is a fairly simple mechanical device compared to an automobile. Because of this, it takes less engineering skill and less capital to begin making washing machines. This invites competition.

One unanswered question that comes to my mind is how production at Newton compares to other Maytag plants? We have learned that hourly production costs in Newton is higher than other Maytag plants, but there has been no disclosure of how much is produced per hour in Newton compared to other plants. Is the value of the finished product per hour worked higher at the Newton plant, about the same or lower? Also, if I were a negotiator for either the union or the company, I’d want to know how much of the company’s total sales are of products produced at the Newton plant.

I’m happy to see that federal mediators are now involved in the negotiations. I have had a favorable experience with a federal mediator and thus have a good opinion of this service.

Don’t cross the picket lines

June 29, 2004
Don’t cross the picket lines
 
Date June 29, 2004
Section(s) Opinion
   
 
To the Editor:

In a recent letter to the editor, a Maytag employee was offended by remarks made to her as she crossed the picket line to report to work at corporate. She felt the remarks made by two “ignorant” men on picket duty were out of line calling her a scab. She feels that since she waves and gives the strikers a thumbs up and carries a purse with an American flag that what she is doing should not have any recourse.

Well, first off, since she does not personally know those two “ignorant” men she is out of line for her remark, and perhaps if she had sat in the rain since 4 a.m. that morning she would have a different view of things.

Now that the company is asking the salaried employees that are still working at corporate to volunteer and go in to resume production at Plant 2 by crossing the picket line, what does that make them? Are they still brothers and sisters? Does she feel that by waving and carrying her purse with the American flag is going to prevent being called a scab?

What is taking place with Maytag is going to forever divide the union employees who are on strike and the salaried employees who are trying to keep their jobs by giving in to the company to cross the picket lines and replace the striking union employees.

It really makes one ponder one simple statement Maytag was so famous for: that everyone is on the same “team.” Maybe we all need to look that definition up before considering crossing our brothers’ and sisters’ picket lines to become scabs.

Renee Leabo

Newton

The worker is not the source of the benefits problem

June 29, 2004
The worker is not the source of the benefits problem
 
Date June 29, 2004
Section(s) Opinion
   
 
To the Editor:

I believe most of us retired employees remember the “Little Red Hen” and “The Goose Who Laid the Golden Eggs.” If Maytag is or was the “Little Red Hen,” many of us provided the labor and should be able to enjoy a few slices of bread. If Maytag is “The Goose Who Laid the Golden Eggs,” we might ask who in his right mind would wish to kill this goose rather than nurture it for golden eggs to come in the future?

I cannot believe it would be the stockholders, CEOs and by all means not the little blue collar and white collar workers. I cannot believe it would be the wishes of the community of Newton, State of Iowa or the United States of America. Yet I see this trend in the United States of companies moving and/or threatening to move plants to China, India, Mexico, as well as other places abroad. I believe in free trade and one day a world economy, but are we not moving too fast and possibly killing the “Big Goose” (the United States of America) which has been the champion golden egg layer of all countries?

While I ramble, consider the question or statements about benefits. Please consider examining why these benefits are so costly. Is it the little blue and white collar people in our country that are totally responsible for the high costs of our benefits? I don’t think so, but it seems to be expected for them to pay for the greed of others with the controlling powers …

During the years we have heard the worlds “working together.” What wonderful words. I would very much like to see this action throughout the world. However, humans have difficulty with putting those words into action. We have an imaginary pendulum that swings back and forth between companies and unions. It seems too many times when one or the other having the dominating power will hold fast to the pendulum not allowing it to swing freely — or, if you will, “working together.” Sometimes, in my opinion, it seems to force an unwanted strike by one of these two powers.

I am thankful for the benefits and wages I receive and received from “once upon a time Maytag Company” even with the carpal tunnel and rotator cuff and some other discomforts causing sleepless nights. However, I earned the wages and benefits. I did not ask for the killing of some of my body parts during my working years. These aches and pains I live with today are my reminders, like wounds, medals or badges are to soldiers. I, like many others, was required to do these jobs for a living.

In conclusion, I pray that companies and the powers that be look at the causes of the rise in costs of the benefits of which they speak rather than the use of them. Are they not looking at the wrong end of the chain of command to fix the out-of-control benefits …?

James Wilson McKinstry

Newton

Maytag puts quality on the back burner

June 28, 2004
Maytag puts quality on the back burner
 
Date June 28, 2004
Section(s) Opinion
   
 
To the Editor:

Concerning corporate Maytag spokespersons, analysts, etc., let me introduce myself as you do not know me. I am Jerry Rouze, a Maytag retiree of over 20 years…

I started in the early ’50s when sheet metal was still at Plant 1 (and then left Maytag and traveled) the country working for other companies in other states. I worked with all kinds of people, race, religion, etc. I learned there is good and bad in all of us. My dad always told me “son, you are never too old to learn.” Therefore, I guess corporate Maytag has not gotten to that stage of learning. They should have learned when closing Hampton and moving to Jefferson City, Mo. They should have learned what a mistake they made when they bought Hoover.

When I returned to Newton — yes back to Maytag in the maintenance department — there sat the same presses in sheet metal that were at Plant 1 in the early ’50s.

There was a letter to the editor a while back in the paper that stated in so many words about antique equipment. How true.

Also, corporate Maytag, how can you compare Newton to any other town or state associated with Maytag products?

Questions. Can you compare the cost of living, the quality of housing, the condition of automobiles, is there or is there not a union, are there or are there not benefits? Can you walk into any entrance to do your job and see a big sign that states “Quality Products Built by Quality People?”

In our Maytag maintenance department we had the utmost qualified people. They could take any antique piece of equipment and make it run like new.

We had production people that would work (hard) to make quality products. But you, corporate Maytag, over the past few years have put quality on the back burner.

Jerry Rouze

Newton

Maytag labor talks to continue next week

June 25, 2004
Maytag labor talks to continue next week
 
Date June 25, 2004
Section(s) Local News
   
 
By PETER HUSSMANN

Editor

On the same day Maytag Corp., and union officials announced that talks will continue next week on their stalled contract negotiation, the company put out a call for volunteers from its salaried employees to work at its Newton production plant.

In a joint release issued late Thursday, the company and UAW Local 997 officials said they had met for the past two days in Chicago “to discuss all critical elements of a potential labor agreement at Maytag‘s manufacturing facilities in Newton.”

Although agreeing to meet next week, the announcement did not specify when the talks would begin.

“Both Maytag and UAW officials have agreed to meet again next week to resume discussions,” the release stated. “While negotiations are continuing, both parties agreed not to comment on the progress, status or location.”

The Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, a governmental agency established by federal law to mediate labor disputes, was involved in the two-day session in Chicago.

Maytag Corp. spokesperson Karen Lynn would not say whether the federal agency would be involved in the negotiations next week.

Workers represented by UAW Local 997 went on strike June 10 after negotiations broke down. The contract expired at midnight May 31, but the sides continued negotiations and workers remained on the job. The primary sticking points include health care costs and retirement benefits, union officials have said.

At the time of the strike, the contract covered 1,525 production employees, 700 workers on layoff and 2,000 retirees. On Wednesday, several hundred of those on layoff returned to the plant for a short period of time and then elected to join striking workers. These workers are now classified as strikers, losing their unemployment benefits.

In a memo to salaried employees at Maytag‘s headquarters building on Thursday, the company sought volunteers to begin production at its laundry plant next week.

“In an effort to accommodate Maytag‘s customer product needs during the present work stoppage at Newton Laundry Products, Maytag is seeking employees from its salaried workforce to perform production assignments at NLP, beginning next week,” the memo says.

The “voluntary opportunity” asks salaried employees to commit to a one-week period beginning Monday. The shift will run from 6 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Those volunteering will be paid at their current salary levels.

Lynn said today that she did not know whether there was sufficient interest by salaried employees for production to begin at the plant. The memo said that if there is enough interest, an orientation/safety session would be conducted today “to prepare individuals for next week’s production activities.”

In addition to the labor strike in Newton, the corporation is also involved in a major restructuring that will cut 20 percent of its salaried work force company-wide.

A week before the strike, the corporation announced that it will integrate its Hoover and Maytag Appliances operations and close office space at its North Canton, Ohio, site.

The majority of the 1,100 positions to be cut will come from its Ohio facility and at Maytag‘s Newton operation. Company responses to questions posed by salaried employees indicate that “the majority of the reductions will take place before June 30.”

No word on Maytag talks, strike enters third week

June 24, 2004
No word on Maytag talks, strike enters third week
 
Date June 24, 2004
Section(s) Local News
   
 
By PETER HUSSMANN

Editor

No information on the status of the contract talks going on in Chicago today was being released as of late this morning as the Maytag strike begins its third week.

Maytag and UAW Local 997 negotiators agreed to meet with representatives of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service in an effort to get the stalled contract talks restarted. The FMCS is authorized under the Labor-Management Act of 1947 to provide free mediation services in contract negotiation disputes.

The renewed talks between Maytag and the UAW were agreed to late last week, with a meetings scheduled last evening and again today.

Maytag production employees walked out and set up picket lines at the plant and Maytag headquarters on June 10 after contract negotiations broke off. The three-year contract expired at midnight May 31 and covered 1,525 production workers, 700 workers on layoff and 2,000 retirees.

Late last week, Maytag sent recall notices to more than 450 laid off workers. The employees accepted their recall rights by returning to work but joined striking workers on the picket line, which effectively reclassifies the employees as striking workers.

Maytag production workers began receiving their first strike pay benefits on Wednesday and again today.

Remember Neutron Jack?

June 24, 2004
Remember ‘Neutron Jack?’
 
Date June 24, 2004
Section(s) Opinion
   
 
To the Editor:

Ralph Hake’s recent behavior — the lay-off of hundreds of union workers, the closing of an entire plant (Galesburg), the firing of hundreds of salaried personnel — are nastily reminiscent of the behavior of the infamous “Neutron” Jack Welch (former CEO of General Electric) who brutally fired more than 100,000 people during his tenure. Could it be that Mr. Hake fancies himself to be another “Neutron” Jack ?

Ironically, I believe Hake himself would have fallen victim to Welch’s ‘Neutron Bomb’ firings if he had been employed under Welch. Why? Because from 2002-2003, Maytag‘s net income dropped 36 percent — from $188.8 million to $120.1 million! Understandably, the Maytag Co. was not pleased with this… It stated in a federal filing that Hake “was not awarded any annual variable incentive compensation” in 2003 due to the company’s performance against financial goals. In other words, Hake didn’t get a bonus that year. And if the Maytag Co. didn’t feel Hake deserved a bonus because of his performance, Jack Welch would most assuredly have given him “the boot” as one of the 10 percent of “corporate poor performers” that he eliminated annually during his tenure at GE.

But to return to the subject of all the layoffs and firings that Hake has authorized lately, let me quote him from an interview with BusinessWeek Magazine on 11/19/2001 shortly after he came to Maytag. The interviewer asked at one point: “What did you find when you came to Maytag?” Hake replied, in part: “….people were worried about their future. I felt we needed to settle people down and get them focused on the business. Get them to stop worrying about whether they had jobs.”

Apparently, Hake no longer feels the need to reassure us about our futures or our jobs. Perhaps it’s because he’s decided to simply eliminate our futures and our jobs, either by financially destabilizing Maytag to make it vulnerable to takeover; or by firing so many people here in Newton that the production lines can’t keep pace with market demand — after which he’ll feel justified in moving Maytag Laundry Products out of Newton entirely.

So forgive us all, Mr. Rickers, if we don’t jump on your bandwagon in staunch support of Hake. He’s done this town, and the displaced Maytag employees, such a disservice that I cannot imagine how anyone could support him.

Lorraine Potter

Newton

We are all brothers and sisters in this

June 24, 2004
We are all brothers and sisters in this
 
Date June 24, 2004
Section(s) Opinion
   
 
To the Editor:

On Monday, as I was coming into work at the Maytag Corp. building, I was waving at the strikers and giving them the thumbs up as I have done every day since the strike began. But this day, as I turned to pull into the parking lot, it was being blocked making it hard for me and others to get into the parking lot. Then, as I walked toward the building, I was called a scab. I was carrying a purse that has an American flag on it and was told I wasn’t American because I crossed the picket line and that I was nothing but a scab … There were a lot of cruel things said by these two men, yes it was just two.

The real reason I am writing this letter is because I know that not all the picketers are as ignorant as these two men. Yes, I cross the picket line and go to work but I am not a scab. I am not taking away your job but trying to keep mine. I am not a member of the union, but if I were I would be out there on the picket line along side all of you. I don’t get strike pay if I don’t go to work and I don’t have the UAW backing me if I lose my job.

What I do have is a whole lot of family that are out on the picket lines with you. I may not be your UAW sister but in God’s eyes we are all brothers and sisters and I do support you in your efforts to have a fair contract, as do a lot of others in Maytag Corp., who have husbands, fathers, brothers, mothers, sisters, neighbors and friends out on the picket lines next to you. My prayers are with you and your families.

Pauline Berger

Newton

Let’s get together and end this strike

June 24, 2004
Let’s get together and end this strike
 
Date June 24, 2004
Section(s) Opinion
   
 
To the Editor:

I have been reading the articles concerning the Maytag strike. There are several issues I would like to address.

First, I would like to thank the Maytagers on the picket line. They felt they had to take a stand and are doing so. My family has Maytag ties. My husband worked for Maytag for 23 years. He went through the strike in 1971. He is now retired. My father also worked there for many years. My sister worked there as well as quite a few of her in-laws.

We were proud to be Maytagers. It meant good wages and benefits for a job well done. Factory work is hot, noisy and dirty. Not everyone can do it.

Does the Maytag name mean dependability as it once did? Probably not.

Second, I would like to thank the Maytag Company for all they have done to better our community; Maytag Park, pool, donation of the DMACC building site, scholarships. Most of these date back many years. The best investment Maytag made was to invest in their production workers and their families. Long-time employees with lots of experience equals success for the company.

Thirdly, I would like to point out that to belittle the job that the production workers have been doing and then try to take back benefits that have been won in the past is not a good bargaining practice. It leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

Lastly, we have good people on both sides. The union has strong leadership. Maytag has reasonable people. There ought to be a way to meet in the middle. Right now it looks like the production workers are being asked to give up some gains while the company CEO and other management are still receiving huge salaries and some get a bonus.

Let’s even this up a bit and drop the line that the workers aren’t doing a good job. Local 997, thanks for taking a stand. Let’s make it a two-way street, not a one-way street.

Nancy Townsend

Newton