Policy at Food Lion
A Sept. 23 article in The Sun, titled "A wage law with no teeth," contained some information that is not only misleading, but false.
As a vice president of Food Lion Inc., I feel I owe it to my fellow 30,000 stockholders and fellow 60,000 employees to set the record straight.
The article cited testimony before a House subcommittee by Food Lion employees regarding allegations that we "routinely forced employees to work off-the-clock."
What the article did not say was that our indications from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) are that, after a one-year DOL investigation involving 50 investigators and thousands of interviews, they found preliminary evidence of only 238 claims, and that's out of more than 170,000 current and former Food Lion employees.
This is supported by the fact that in anonymous opinion surveys taken of Food Lion employees, over 90 percent stated that no working off-the-clock occurs. That figure pretty well supports the DOL investigation's findings.
Food Lion has an extensive and effective system for preventing working off-the-clock:
1. The Food Lion policy is emphasized during new employee orientation, is included in the employee handbook and in each management policy manual and is posted on our employee bulletin boards.
2. A quarterly working off-the-clock newsletter is distributed to management employees and department heads each month, and articles concerning working off-the-clock appear regularly in the Food Lion newsletter, which is sent to all employees.
3. Alleged violations can be reported either on a special "800" number -- anonymously, if desired -- or to any member of management, and all such reports are thoroughly investigated.
4. Inspections for working off-the-clock are regularly performed by Food Lion's regional human resources department investigators, area supervisors, store managers, store auditors, and other management, as well as through the anonymous employee surveys mentioned above.
5. Managers and department heads who require or allow employees to work off-the-clock are generally terminated, and employees are compensated for all time worked.
In short, working off-the-clock is not tolerated (much less encouraged) at Food Lion.
Yet another item in The Sun article which we particularly feel must be corrected is that Food Lion sued Capital Cities/ABC and its producer for trying "to go undercover to report on working conditions at Food Lion." This is not true.
Food Lion's lawsuit was specifically intended to block "Prime Time Live" from airing those portions of the segment which used illegally obtained material.
"Prime Time Live" producer Lynne Litt applied for a job as a meat processor using a fictitious name, falsified her employment application, which she affirmed as being true with her signature, and lied about her past work experience.
Then, after being hired, we believe she tampered with the work area to concoct staged video tape to discredit Food Lion. This is what we firmly believe should not be aired as objective TV news reporting.
Our lawsuit never said we intended to block the airing of any segment attacking Food Lion.
Vincent G. Watkins
The writer is Food Lion's vice president of special projects and development.
Surviving with Pride at Sparrows Point Yard
I am writing this letter in response to an Opinion * Commentary article of Oct. 29, "Sustaining Life at the Shipyard." The opinions in this letter are my own and should in no way reflect those of the management of BethShip Sparrows Point Yard.
David Britton painted an extremely morbid picture of life at the shipyard; however, I am sure that Mr. Britton has absolutely no understanding of the U.S. shipbuilding industry and how its recent status has contributed to the situation that he alluded to in his article.
I have been gainfully employed at the shipyard for almost 23 years (28 years if you consider my part-time employment during my college career). During those years, I have watched the yard go from one of the most prestigious tanker design and manufacturing facilities to a surviving repair, overhaul and conversion facility.
The key word in the previous sentence is "surviving." Numerous shipyards throughout our nation have not survived and are in fact dormant. The past history of the Sparrows Point shipyard is one of thousands of employees building numerous ships.
At present, our shipyard is gainfully employing approximately 1,000 workers -- workers who would be added to the unemployment figures if the yard had followed the course that other American shipyards had taken and closed its doors.
The decision by the yard management to downsize to employment figures low enough to support the shipyard's new intended market (repair, conversion and overhaul) is a decision whose difficulty can only be measured by sleepless nights and cold cups of coffee.
Was it a good decision? BethShip Sparrows Point Yard still exists. That in itself is enough to substantiate the decision. Is BethShip Sparrows Point Yard in a position to be an active participant in the expected upturn in the shipbuilding industry when it happens -- not if it happens? As long as shipyard workers are coming through our gates each morning, Sparrows Point Yard will be ready for bigger and better things.
Mr. Britton, in his preparation for his masters degree in writing, should attempt to dig a little bit deeper in his evaluation of any situation. At the Sparrows Point Yard, he should have brushed aside the dirt that he alluded to and witnessed the healthy roots of a surviving shipyard ready to grow when the industry "weather" improves.
Joseph J. Getz
It is unfortunate indeed that you saw fit to publish "Sustaining Life at the Shipyard." Though not employed by Bethlehem, Mr. Britton did spend two months at the Sparrows Point Yard during the past summer as an employee of a subcontractor. It is apparent from his essay that those two months represent his entire experience in and exposure to the shipyard industry.
As our approximately 1,200 employees well know, the essay is fraught with inaccuracies which cover the entire spectrum from the trivial to the serious. Its conclusions are drawn from fallacious reasoning, bizarre anecdotal evidence, ignorance or thin air.
While Mr. Britton may or may not have pleased a writing professor with his essay, he certainly did not please those 1,200 men and women (and their union, which can speak quite well for itself) whom he so cruelly and unfairly maligned. They deserve far better than such public abuse at the hand of an irresponsible chronicler of how he spent his summer vacation.
The real story of the men and women of the Sparrows Point Yard is one of tenacious determination to succeed against heavy odds in an industry which has lost over 50 percent of its facilities and workers in the last 10 years.
It is the story of a yard that had long been a world-class builder of ships recognizing that it would not survive unless it could somehow penetrate an already fiercely competitive ship repair market, then making that transition successfully enough to become a prominent force in that market almost overnight.
It is the story of a yard that recovered from a difficult four-month strike in 1989 to negotiate an historic early labor agreement last year to overcome competition from a non-union yard on major fabrication contract.
It is the story of a yard that today is enjoying its most profitable year since the mid-80s and will have seen almost 2 million hours of productive work performed by the end of the year.
It is the story, above all, of a dedicated team of skilled men and women who refused to give in to adversity and who take extreme and justifiable pride in what they have accomplished and what they continue to accomplish.
The writer is president of BethShip Sparrows Point Yard.
Weinberg Foundation's Method of Philanthropy
The Sun's Oct. 22 op-ed page gave prominence to an article by one Pablo Eisenberg attacking the Weinberg Foundation.
The Sun has full discretion as to what it does and does not print. Inflammatory, ill-informed, self-promoting dribble is not required or entitled to be published.
The fact of the matter is that the Weinberg Foundation through its trustees makes a minimum of one-quarter of its gifts each year to non-Jewish-related charities. Can the same be said of the other major private foundations which were created by non-Jewish individuals -- that is, do the Rockefeller and Ford foundations give a minimum of one quarter of their gifts each year to Jewish charities?
The answer, as we all know, is that they do not, which, of course, is their business. The Weinberg Foundation's interfaith distributions, on the other hand, are a splendid model for other foundations to emulate.
The crux of the matter is not who the trustees are, but rather to whom the gifts are made.
Mr. Eisenberg is equally wrong in his analysis of "accountability."
The job of the trustees is to distribute the foundation's funds to worthy charities with as few dollars as possible being expended for "administration."
No foundation in the country has succeeded to the degree accomplished by the Weinberg trustees in minimizing administration costs. In addition, the list of charities benefited to date is exemplary and worthy by any standard.
There are virtually as many methods and criteria for choosing worthy recipients as there are charitable foundations. The particular selection process is of no consequence.
Contrary to Mr. Eisenberg's assertion, the Weinberg trustees have met the ultimate test of accountability; they have ably and wisely performed. One need only examine the annual reports filed by the foundation (all of which are public documents) and note the di minimis "administrative" charges, and the worthy list of recipients.
Let Mr. Eisenberg, or anyone else, name another foundation doing a better job.
The most reprehensible and inflammatory implication of the article is that when and if the religious makeup of the trustees should become all Jewish (presently, it is 40 percent non-Jewish), there will be some resulting "harm."
The fact is that the trustees are required, in perpetuity, to distribute a minimum of one-quarter of all gifts to non-Jewish philanthropies. Thus, continuation of the uniquely non-denominational nature of Harry Weinberg's generosity is assured regardless of the religious affiliation of the trustees.
The serious question not raised in the article is why the major national and local foundations, originated by persons of religious denominations different from Mr. Weinberg's, distribute virtually no significant portion of their funds to Jewish charities?
The Weinberg Foundation has a standard of non-denominational giving which brings pride to Mr. Weinberg's concept and heritage and should be emulated by the other foundations.
David S. Cordish
Bernard Siegel, president of the Weinberg Foundation, criticizes one complaint which Pablo Eisenberg makes about the bizarre methods of the Weinberg Foundation. Mr. Siegel's refusal to deal with the fundamental problems speaks volumes.
Let him answer these questions posed by Mr. Eisenberg and others:
Why is the foundation's telephone number unlisted? Why is the tax address incorrect?
Why do the trustees show little interest in the operation of other foundations?
Why do they rarely consult with their peers, such as the Abell Foundation or the National Council on Philanthropy?
Why does the foundation not publish grant-making guidelines or annual reports?
Why does a billion dollar foundation have to waste its money on a public relations consultant?
Why are the salaries of the trustees hidden in a series of subsidiaries so that they don't have to be publicly disclosed?
Why did the foundation spend hundreds of thousands of dollars fixing up a lavish condominium in Hawaii for the benefit of the trustees?
Mr. Siegel muses that "long after the Pablo Eisenbergs of this world have been forgotten, the names of Harry and Jeanette Weinberg will be remembered with respect."
That may well be true, but for many years, unfortunately, the Weinberg name will be besmirched by an operational methodology that is inconsistent with charity.
James D. Halloway
State Cuts Will Cause 'Great Suffering'
The Maryland chapter of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), which has a membership of over 3,600 social workers in the state, would like to be on record opposing the severe budget cuts that are going into effect and will be affecting the poorest and most helpless population in the state.
In the most recent round of budget cuts that were approved by the Board of Public Works on Sept. 30, the medical assistance program for a broad range of medical care services to low income persons and to people with catastrophic illnesses were eliminated.
A reduction in the income levels for eligibility to receive nursing home care was changed so that numbers of people who are currently in nursing homes and have no other resources will be no longer eligible for those placements.
Funding for community mental health services was severely reduced so that there will be a decrease in grants to local health departments for adult clinical services.
Funds for the general public assistance program, which provides financial assistance to adults who were unemployed or who only have part-time employment due to a diagnosed illness or impairment, have been reduced.
The aid to families with dependent children grant, which provides cash benefits to poor women and children, has been reduced to the 1988 level so that over 80,000 poor families in Maryland will receive a grant of $359 per month for a family of three.
This list of budget cuts that affect the most vulnerable population in the state is just the most recent of a series of cuts that have affected the lives of these individuals that have the misfortune of living in poverty. These are just some examples of the kind of budget slashing that is taking place in the state.
The Maryland chapter of the NASW is fully aware of the fact that the state is in the midst of a budget crisis. Yet there are other ways to balance the state budget.
The consequences of the reductions in the social welfare programs are going to cause great suffering to many citizens in Maryland.
Camille B. Wheeler
The writer is president and legislative chair of the Maryland chapter of the NASW.