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Andrew Martin, New York Times, Published December 26 2012

No-layoff company Marvin Windows writes profit-sharing checks

Marvin Windows and Doors, a family-owned business based in northern Minnesota, survived the financial crisis without any employee layoffs, a decision that won the company praise from presidential candidates and pundits alike.

On Friday, the company gave employees their first profit-sharing checks in four years, plus a ham. While the checks were relatively modest — $799,379 was split among 2,573 employees, an average of $311 for each employee — company officials said it was a sign that the worst of the crisis may be over.

“I think everyone believes that we are in the midst of a recovery, albeit a slow and painful one,” said John Kirchner, a company spokesman.

During the presidential campaign, President Obama referred to Marvin on several occasions as an example of a company that valued its employees over profits. Instead of laying off workers, Marvin officials cut back hours for hourly workers, eliminated some perks and cut pay for salaried employees, including executives and family members, with the goal of breaking even until the economy improved.

In his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention, President Obama noted that Marvin did not lay off any of its employees when the recession hit “even when their competitors shut down dozens of plants, even when it meant the owner gave up some perks and some pay because they understood that their biggest asset was the community and the workers who had helped build that business — they give me hope.”

Ironically, Marvin’s top executives are Republicans and reliable contributors to Republican presidential campaigns. The company’s president, Susan Marvin, endorsed Mitt Romney at a rally with his running mate, Paul Ryan. In November, before the election, Mr. Romney visited a Marvin plant in Virginia.

“During a time when the housing market was in such distress, for them to be able to maintain their business and maintain their employee base is an extraordinary thing,” Mr. Romney said, according to local news reports.

In an interview last year, several members of the Marvin family said the no-layoff policy was a long-term business strategy that they thought would give them a competitive advantage by retaining experienced workers when its competitors were shedding them. In addition, they said it would keep its hometown Warroad, Minn., vibrant at a time when others were being hard hit by unemployment.

“If we would have cut 1,000 people in early 2009, it would have had a devastating impact on the community,” Jake Marvin, the chief executive, said in an interview on Friday.

The profit-sharing checks were delivered at the company’s annual meeting, held in a hockey arena in Warroad, which is known as much for its hockey teams and walleye fishing as its sprawling windows plant. It was 3 degrees when the meeting began.

The size of the profit-sharing checks depended on an employee’s job and years of service, he said. (Marvin employs 2,000 or so other employees who work for different brands and operate as separate businesses).

Kathy Fast, who has worked for Marvin for 55 years, said she was surprised when she received an envelope containing a green piece of paper, the deposit slip showing her share of the profits.

“I wasn’t expecting that,” said Ms. Fast, who is 76 and has worked in accounts receivable during her entire tenure at Marvin. “That is great.” She declined to say how much she received.