A Salute to DealersWritten By Mary Sedor
Article Date: 11-01-2007
Copyright(C) 2007 Associated Equipment Distributors. All Rights Reserved.
Equipment dealers go above and beyond the 'call of duty' to support their employees on military leave.
A flag flies over Camp Anaconda, a large U.S. base in Balad, Iraq, approximately 50 miles north of Baghdad.
The U.S. flag is a symbol of many things - a fight for freedom, for justice, for our way of life. On this day, over Camp Anaconda, however, this flag is meant as a symbol of thanks.
Darrin Bush, a sergeant in the Army Reserve, Company 417, was stationed for one year in Camp Anaconda. He flew this flag last November as a way to thank John and Nancy Mickelson, owners of RB Scott Co. in Eau Claire, Wis., for not only supporting him while he was deployed but also taking care of his wife and five children.
RB Scott threw Bush a going away party, and sent care packages to him while he was away. The Mickelsons and their employees all participated in providing Christmas gifts to the Bush children and even plowed the family's driveway after a heavy snowfall.
To provide financial support, the Mickelsons decided to pay Bush the difference between what he earned as a mechanic and what he earned with the U.S. Army.
"We're a small company - we don't have a policy on [supporting deployed employees]," said John Mickelson. "When we learned Darrin would be leaving, Nancy and I talked about it and we felt that with the sacrifice he was making to go to Iraq we felt we should step in and help bridge the gap for him and his family."
Mickelson says this isn't the only instance of the company showing its support for the employees.
"We're family oriented and we have very little turnover in our employees," he said. "I guess it just came naturally to support Darrin and his family. We are pleased and grateful that Darrin is back in our shop."
Early last month, Bush returned back to work as a service technician for the first time since arriving home from Iraq.
"I thought it was great the way they took care of me - they weren't required in the military standards to support me in the way they did," said Bush. "Every little bit helps. It's like one big family here. It's a great place to work."
RB Scott, like many AED member dealers, goes above and beyond to show support for employees called up to serve our country.
Employers have a set of rules to follow for employees called up for active military service. The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) prohibits discrimination against persons because of their service in the Armed Forces Reserve, the National Guard, or other uniformed services.
Employers must not discriminate in any way against persons because of their service; continue to provide health coverage while the employee is on military leave; provide re-employment when the employee returns in the same position they left; preserve seniority and pension benefits; and it gives veterans the right to execute procedures to enforce the law.
Employees also have a set of criteria to meet. They are protected by USERRA as long as they meet four conditions: they must provide their employers with advanced written notice of their absence; their absence cannot accumulate to more than five years; they must report to or submit an application for re-employment to the employer in a timely manner; and they must be released from military service honorably.
For Mark Dublin, a territory manager for Groff Tractor & Equipment in Mechanicsburg, Pa., returning to work after serving in Afghanistan for 15 months really showed him how much his employer cares about him. He is an officer in the Pennsylvania Army National Guard.
"A lot of companies would be upset if you have someone in a position that's not easily replaceable," said Dublin. "We're in the relationship business and to take someone out who's established relationships with the customers and to put someone temporary in, the business could suffer. But from the time they found out I was being deployed, not one time did they ever lament that they were going to lose business."
Before he left, Mike Savastio, president of Groff Tractor, even went so far as to ensure that Dublin's family would be taken care of - he accelerated the process to ensure Dublin was paid for all of his commissions before he left.
"Everything was focused on my family, making sure they were going to be taken care of and how proud they were of me," said Dublin. "It was incredible."
During his deployment Katie Reed, Groff's director of human resources and marketing, along with other employees, corresponded with him via e-mail. They also sent care packages during his absence.
"It was important for us to make sure that Mark knew how much we cared and were concerned about him throughout his deployment, as well as how much we were anxious to have him back in his sales job as a top contributor to our business," said Reed.
At times Dublin would ask for basic necessities, such as a screwdriver or pliers and the employees at Groff would quickly oblige.
"When you go to Afghanistan, you're 30 miles from Iran," said Dublin. "You can't go to Wal-Mart for your basic necessities. The people at Groff would send me the stuff I needed."
Transitioning back to the civilian world has taken some time for Dublin, but he says Groff has again shown their support.
"Even six months later I'm not performing to the capacity I was before and I told them I'm concerned that I'm not selling enough," said Dublin, "but they say they aren't concerned. They tell me not to worry and that they know what I'm about and I'll come back. It's very comforting."
Dublin says its been difficult because when he left he was the top salesman in the western region, and he's just getting back to the kind of sales he was used to.
"They've gone above and beyond what was asked of them in the situation," said Dublin.
Wagner Equipment in Aurora, Colo., has had four employees deployed - one to Afghanistan and three to Iraq. Wagner keeps the employees' positions open while they're on leave and also sends care packages to them.
Tom Gann, a service technician at Wagner, spent nearly a year in Iraq from 2003 to 2004 as part of the reserves. The first thing he did after hearing rumors of deployment was to tell his employer.
"I went to find out how being deployed would affect my job and I found out it wouldn't at all," he said. "They kept my family on my medical plan and really took care of everything. I was really blessed."
Gann says some of the guys in his unit were worried about keeping their jobs when they returned to civilian life.
"There were guys in my unit worried about not getting the same treatment, about not getting the same pay or same shift and I heard of some guys that did struggle," he said. "But I didn't have any worries."
Paul Renwick, a service technician at Wagner, started back in his shop early in October after spending nearly a year in Iraq. He is a member of the Colorado National Guard. During his time in Iraq, former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and TV talk show host Sean Hannity visited his base in Balad, Iraq in December 2006.
"I felt like if there was ever anything I was in dire need of, I could get a hold of someone at Wagner and they would make it happen," said Renwick.
Above and Beyond
Many dealers pay their employees the difference between their current pay and military pay while they are deployed. MacAllister Machinery, a Cat dealer in Indianapolis, Ind., is one of those companies.
"We've done it for more than 15 years," said Chris MacAllister, president. "The primary reason is because we value our people and we want them to return to us after their military service. We feel if we treat them right, they will reciprocate and come back to the team."
Cummins Rocky Mountain in Broomfield, Colo., as well as Stowers Machinery in Knoxville, Tenn., also supplement the employee's pay. Stowers also gives deployed employees a $5,000 cash bonus and 20 additional paid vacation days they can use immediately upon discharge to spend time with their families before they come back to work.
Stowers has four employees who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan: Edward Cook, shop welder; Jack Devers, shop technician; Darrell Wilson, generator technician; and Randy Marts, PM technician. Marts is currently in Iraq and is due to return this December.
Cook was active duty for 11 years, then joined the National Guard. He was deployed to Iraq in November 2004 and returned in October 2005. He's been a shop welder for 14 years.
"One of my co-workers, if she didn't hear from me in two or three days, she would e-mail me and make sure I was OK," said Cook. "She always sent me care packages, and any time I wanted something they sent it to me."
Well over 15 percent of the total workforce at Central Power Systems & Services in Liberty, Mo., is comprised of military veterans. All combined, the company's veterans account for over 330 man-years of work and have a combined total of nearly 250 years of active military service.
"Our company goes above and beyond what is required by law to support our troops," said Lewis Paul, Jr., human resources manager. "We feel that this is important as we strive to provide a sense of community and camaraderie within our company."
Central Power not only supplements base pay, but employees can choose to take vacation instead of a military leave of absence; they continue to
pay medical insurance for employees on military leave of absence; and all military veterans are provided with an extra day off with pay to be taken the week after Veteran's Day.
Brian Williams, a sales manager for Central Power, served in the Air Force for five and a half years and is a member of the reserves. His most recent deployment was to Israel last year. The way that Central Power was able to support him while he was away has meant that Central Power has earned a lifelong employee.
"I've been with this company three and a half years and in that time I've had plenty of people approach me, wanting me to work for them," said Williams. "I haven't bothered talking to them. This company really respects their employees and takes good care of them. It's getting harder to find these days and I have no reason to consider going anywhere else. I appreciate the way they take care of me and I try to return the favor as much as I can."
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