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ACIPCO among top 100 employers.

One man's concern for the dignity and welfare of his employees has benefited generations of foundry workers and their families.

"Industry has no right to use the best years of a man's life and, as old age approaches, throw him out. It is one of the real joys to see men receiving monthly their own money which has been set aside |for them~."

These were the sentiments at the turn of the century of John J. Eagan, founder of ACIPCO (American Cast Iron Pipe Co.), Birmingham, Alabama. His faith in his workers proved so strong that he made his employees company owners.

Seventy years later, Eagan's legacy is reflected in ACIPCO being listed in the latest edition of The 100 Best Companies to Work for in America. The book's authors used the following as key selection factors: worker pay and benefits; opportunities; job security; pride in work and company; openness and fairness; camaraderie; and friendliness.

So profound were Eagan's beliefs in sharing his good fortune with his workers that when he died, he left all the company's stock in trust for the employees. This act amounted to one of the nation's earliest profit-sharing plans, paying dividends to employees based on the company's profitability.

In recent years, the quarterly bonus has added nearly 10% to an employee's base pay. This is in addition to a generous pay scale in the top 25% of comparable foundries. The average wage for unskilled laborers in 1992 was $11.71/hr and an entry-level wage for skilled trades people ranged from $13.01-$15.62/hr.

"We realize that if we don't put out, we don't get a bonus. It gives people more incentive," an ACIPCO employee said.

Another employee added that "most people do their job like they're spending their own money."

Seven years before his death in 1924, Eagan instituted the pension fund, then an almost unheard of employee benefit. He was one of the first employers to institute free medical and dental care, showers and clean towels, a 24-hour hot food service, training and safety committees, and a no layoff policy.

Eagan also provided houses for employees and opened a company store. The store, which still operates, offers a complete range of foods and general merchandise at 10% above wholesale prices and payroll deductions for major purchases.

The foundry's 2500 employees make ACIPCO one of the world's largest makers of iron water and sewage pipe, valves, hydrants, ductile iron pipe and other steel products. The company's enlightened labor/management philosophy had evolved decades before labor reforms began in the U.S. Eagan's beliefs gave rise to a shared employer/employee social covenant that was both earned and benevolent.

At its base, the covenant reflected Eagan's deep respect for human dignity and worker loyalty. Bequeathing ownership and control of his company to his workers was a lasting legacy of his deep belief in applying his understanding of Christian principles to business.

Progressive Health Care

One of the finest medical centers in Birmingham is only 300 yards from the huge ACIPCO facility. More than 200 people a day--nearly half of them children--visit the center that has a staff of eight full-time physicians, including three pediatricians, five full-time dentists and 11 part-time medical specialists who hold regular clinics there.

However, the center's only patients are the 10,000 current and former ACIPCO employees and their families.

ACIPCO offers one of the best and most comprehensive employee healthcare programs in America. Employees get a 75% discount on prescription drugs and pay only 15% of the doctor's fees when referred to an outside specialist. The company picks up the rest, including 100% of hospital bills.

At an annual cost of more than $5000 an employee, the program is one of the most expensive (the average company spends $3200 a year).

Many ACIPCO workers are related. For instance, the chief of the dental staff in the medical clinic is a second-generation employee. His father was an electrician with 40 years of service.

Another second-generation employee tells of his father, retired and living in another state, who contracted a fatal disease. After the worker asked a company official for help in bringing his father to Birmingham, ACIPCO responded by chartering a private jet to fly the man home.

"That's the kind of company this is," the employee said. "They'll be here when you need them."

Faced with accumulated medical bills of $500,000, the man's family paid only $1000.

The family feeling at ACIPCO is evident everywhere, especially in the company newsletter. It is filled with babies, birthdays, bowling and coverage of company activities--from fishing contests to Christmas parties, open-house events and other events of general employee interest.

Cooperative Management

Another unique Eagan legacy is the board of operatives composed of 12 employees elected to serve two-year terms. Two members of this board serve on the company's board of directors.

Eagan set up the board of operatives because he believed that workers and management should communicate with each other, and quickly and personally solve whatever problems arise. In this arrangement, management and labor have the open relationship that Eagan championed.

The board of operatives meets with the works manager every two weeks and with the entire board of management once a month to discuss areas of concern. A special grievance and discipline committee composed of four board members and four members of management rule on those matters. If their vote is not unanimous, the matter is referred to the board of management for a final decision.

Is it any wonder that ACIPCO employees honor Eagan's birthday every year or that his bronze statue greets visitors at the company's main entrance?
COPYRIGHT 1993 American Foundry Society, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:American Cast Iron Pipe Co.
Author:Bex, Tom
Publication:Modern Casting
Date:Jun 1, 1993
Words:941
Previous Article:Investing in employees.
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