You've probably heard about this story on the national news - I saw it on CNN and the NBC news tonight - but I actually read about it on Friday and don't know why it took me so long to write about it.
During these tough economic times when so many businesses are going under, many more are laying people off, and even more are cutting back or eliminating holiday bonusess altogether (note: If you're the CEO of a financial institution or one of the Big 3, you must not get a holiday bonus for the rest of your life), it's heartwarming to see an employer that went out of their way to reward their employees.
Waukegan business gives out giant bonuses
Associated Press in the Daily Herald, November 28, 2008
Dave Tiderman wondered if the decimal point was in the wrong place when he opened his $35,000 company bonus. Jose Rojas saw his $10,000 check and thought, "That can't be right."
Valentin Dima watched co-workers breaking down in tears over their bonus checks and didn't trust his emotions. He drove home first, then opened his envelope: $33,000.
Year-end bonuses are rare these days. Rarer still is what the Spungen family, owners of a ball bearings company in Waukegan did as they sold the business.
They gave out whopping thank-you bonuses.
A total of $6.6 million is being shared by just 230 employees of Waukegan-based Peer Bearing Co., with facilities in England and the United States. Amounts varied and were based on years of service.
"They treated us like extended family," said Maria Dima, who works at Peer Bearing along with her husband, Valentin, and received a somewhat smaller check than he did. "We won the lottery."
With $100 million in sales last year, Peer recently was acquired by a Swedish company for an undisclosed amount. Danny Spungen, whose grandfather founded the company in 1941, said it was a unanimous family decision to thank employees with the bonuses.
Laurence and Florence Spungen and their four children decided on a bonus formula a year before the sale closed to SKF Group, "a gamble that we would come out OK as well," Danny Spungen said.
He and other family members signed, by hand, two thank-you cards to each employee, one in Spanish and one in English. Each card was printed with all the workers' names and the years they were hired. The text expressed gratitude for "the loyalty and hard work of our employees over the years."
Nathan Spungen, who died in 1990, would have approved, Danny Spungen, 47, said. He noted the elder Spungen was generous with customers who owed money. "My grandfather was always charitable," he said.
The new owners intend to operate Peer as a wholly owned subsidiary. Workers have been told that most will keep their jobs, and life at the company hasn't changed much since the party in mid-September when the bonuses were distributed.
Rojas, who works in Peer's customer service department, said he saw fellow employees do "double-triple takes" that day. He plans to save his money for his son's college education.
Tiderman, who started with Peer in 1985 and worked his way up from the warehouse to assistant product manager, said most of his bonus will stay in the bank because of the uncertain economy.
"I do have to put some tires on my truck," he added.
Incongruously, the bonuses coincided with the nation's economic meltdown. While neighbors and friends faced new financial strains, the Peer employees could breathe easier.
"I know people who work for corporate America are not going to get treated like that. And most of the family owned businesses are not going to treat you like that," Tiderman said. "This is something that just really doesn't happen."
Valentin and Maria Dima, who emigrated from Romania after the 1989 revolution, are nearing retirement. They took a Caribbean cruise after getting their checks.
"This company gave us stability, so we dare to spend some money on such a thing," Valentin Dima said.
There was one more gesture of generosity this week. The Spungen family kept a tradition alive by pre-ordering a Thanksgiving gift for workers before selling the company.
"Everybody got a turkey," Maria Dima said.
On the Net: http://www.peerbearing.com/