Employee’s thoughts on Maytag

Employee’s thoughts on Maytag
Date May 15, 2006
Section(s) Opinion
To the Editor:

Just sharing some thoughts about Maytag. As a 30-year employee I’ve seen lots of changes.

At one time, the factory in Newton was it. Fred Maytag‘s philosophy about quality was: make it yourself and control the quality of as many of the parts as you can. It proved true then, and perhaps even more so in today’s world. At that time, Maytag had their own foundry and made its own rubber for the hoses and rubber components. We even made our own nuts and bolts. Their dependability was legendary. An American icon was forged in Newton. The machines lasted for years! I think it was in the late ’70s that we had one machine running in the test lab 24/7 and the last I knew, it was still running (maybe 100 years’ worth of lifetime use). In those days we were proud to be a Maytager.

Then gradually, things changed. Ironically, afraid of being bought up by competitors, the solution was to get bigger. Thus Jenn-Air and Hoover and a host of other companies were brought into the fold. Decisions like plane tickets for vacuum cleaners and outsourcing of the parts we used to make ourselves were made.

New philosophies, like our products are “over engineered” and shouldn’t last that long. Ten years max would be better for the replacement market. Then the Neptune came along, and even with its $1,000 price tag, sold better than anyone would have dreamed. Despite all the defects, the girls in the design evaluation laboratory had pointed out it was rushed into production.

Then that mildew smell, and soon after, the lawsuits. Maytagers lost their swagger. They took away the quality control inspectors and now there isn’t even a quality control department.

We’ve lost almost all of our people driving the quality and today just struggle to make production. Just a few years ago the Newton facility alone cranked out 10,000 units a day! Today we make around 2,000.

Before the last contract expired the company began to show us chart after chart about how much we cost them and how overpaid we are in Newton and how much cheaper other facilities operate. So union members voted to pay more for benefits. “Wasn’t enough,” Ralph said, even though the company accepted the contract. Even before that he had decided to quit advertising the products we make in Newton. When was the last time you saw one of our products in an advertisement or Ol’ Lonely for that matter? The “Neptunes” you see advertised come from Korea with Maytag‘s name on them, as do the blenders, mixers, irons and some microwaves. Why? As a fellow in the marketing department told me recently, “they advertise what makes them the most money.” So how much of that $1,000 washing machine from Korea is profit?

We all knew this day was coming. Out of desperation, the stockholders voted for the sellout, me included. Management’s decisions left us with no alternative. Our union president has requested the attorney general to look into any improprieties in this deal. The fact that the board hires Whirlpool’s ex-CFO as our new CEO and almost immediately stock price begins to drop, eventually to a low of $9.50 a share. The company is sold to Whirlpool and he gets rewarded with $19 million for a job well done? That investigation, if it even happens, will be like asking the oil companies if they’re overcharging us! Our noble politicians have made grand show of concern. Build a new factory. Build a fence. How can we compete with a dollar an hour wages in Mexico and even less elsewhere? You could blame the “Wal-Mart mentality” but this is the world we Americans have created for ourselves and we might as well get used to it. Like it or not.

Dale Cunningham



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