Human Resource Management: and the Sugar Factory.
Delbert Lammers Human Resource Management: BUS 303 Human Resource Management, and the Sugar Factory Beverly Williams: Instructor August 30th, 2010 Human Resource Management: And the Sugar Factory Have you ever hired someone to work for you? If you have ever went to a dentist or a doctor, or had your car serviced or repaired, or hired someone to mow your lawn, then you have used some form of Human Resource Management (HRM) skills, when hiring these people.
Perhaps you simply relied on word off mouth when choosing a company or person to work for you, or perhaps it was the way they dressed and spoke that persuaded you to hire them. Then again, you may have needed more information to make a decision, and so you did a credit and background check, along with an in person interview. These are all skills that Human Resource Management people use on a daily basis to make sure they are making the right choices for their organizations.
In this paper I will discuss my organization,and several different aspects of human resource management, and what impact they have on my organization. First of all let’s define HRM. There are many different ways to define HRM, but in essence it is the process of deciding what an organizations human resource needs are and then finding the best people to fill those needs. Once the right people have been hired, it is also the job of the HRM to help motivate these people to give their best efforts by providing them with the right incentives and job environment in order to achieve their organizational goals.
My Organization For the purposes of writing this paper, ‘my organization’ shall refer the Snake River Amalgamated sugar factory located in Nyssa, Oregon, where I worked for several years, and still have family members and friends working there. The Amalgamated Sugar company is a sugar beet refining company. The actual sugar beet refining only takes place during what they call the campaign season, which starts after the first frost in the fall, and usually ends after March or April the following spring. The company was founded in 1897 in Logan Utah (Bachman 1962) , and is now headquartered in Boise,
Idaho. The company was started and operated by members of the Mormon church. The Mormon church actually owned controlling interest in the company from 1914 until 1942. The company has grown steadily over the years, and now has sugar manufacturing plants through out many of the western and mid-western states. It is the second largest producer of sugar in the United states. The company is partially owned by the Pepsi Bottling Ventures company which uses vast amounts of their sugar to sweeten it’s soft drink products.
The company was listed on the New York Stock Exchange in 1950 ( I was born in Nyssa that same year). Because of labor shortages during world war II, “Mexican Nationals” and “Japanese evacuees” were used as field laborers by the company until the war ended. As far as sugar beet refining factories go, the one in Nyssa is one of the smallest. It sits on the eastern edge of town, just two-hundred yards from the Snake river which acts as the border between Idaho and Oregon, until the Columbia river takes over the job about a hundred and fifteen miles northwest of Nyssa.
Most of the factory, including the front, where the main offices are located, is made of red brick which was laid in 1937, (Bachman, 1962). Over the years, many parts of the factory have been upgraded or ‘modernized,” yet it has always kept it’s red brick facade. It has always been, as far as I can remember, a very dirty, smelly, and often times, dangerous place to work. In the winter time most parts of the factory are cold and drafty, while during the summer months it is often very hot and humid. Neither the union (the Teamsters) nor the HRM people have done much to improve the deplorable working conditions at the factory.
During the winter months when the campaign season is in full swing, the entire town is often covered in a moist brown haze with a smell so ripe and putrid, that many people want to vomit at their first encounter with it. Health and Safety In 1973 I worked at the factory all summer helping to tear out the aging oil fired boiler which was used to dry the sugar beet pulp during the pellitizing process. The removal of the old boiler included the removal of hundreds of feet of asbestos insulated pipe. If I remember correctly, no safety precautions were made during the removal of the asbestos, I think ecause most of us at that time, had never heard of the hazards of asbestos. Asbestos is a mineral which was once widely used in piping and insulation products, until thousands of people claimed to have contracted respiratory diseases as a result of inhaling the dust from asbestos, Ivancevich (2008). A French company was awarded the contract to install the new gas fired boiler, and a French engineer with several assistants were sent from France to oversee the project. It was very dangerous work. I remember that three men were seriously injured during that construction project.
One man lost a foot when a large crane jumped when it lost tension on its lift cable, and one of the outrigger pads came down on the mans foot, who was standing to close to the crane. This accident could have easily been prevented if only the area immediately around the crane had been roped off, or if someone responsible had been watching to make sure no one got too close to the crane while it was in operation. Accidents were common place at the Nyssa factory. One of my foremen was missing an eye that he had lost when a steam pipe blew out.
Another foreman we called lefty, had lost his left arm when it was caught between a sprocket ed wheel and its drive chain. Many employees found they couldn’t work there because of the lime dust, sulfur dioxide, and other chemicals which gave the place such a terrible smell. I remember when the campaign ended each year, it usually took a couple weeks for the stench of the place to leave my sinuses. Bad smalls and unsafe working conditions, combined with low wages all contribute to a high employee turn over rate, absenteeism, and a poor profit margin.
One way to address the poor air quality inside and out side of the factory would be to have the national Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), Ivancevich (2008) evaluate the health hazards at the factory through its Health Hazard Evaluation (HHE) program. Any employer, employee, employee representative, state or local government agency, or federal agency can ask NIOSH investigators to conduct an evaluation. Unfortunately investigations and evaluations can only do so much. As with other HRM functions, the success of a safety and health program requires the support and cooperation of managers.
With out this support, health and safety efforts will be hampered. Another aspect of health and safety requires that top management support the effort with an adequate budget. I believe that because of poor economic conditions, the management at the Nyssa factory cannot do all they might wish to do to protect the health and safety of its worker. In 1990 the Nyssa sugar factory was declared the second biggest polluter of sulfur dioxide in the state of Oregon, by the EPA, just behind an old coal fired electric plant at Boardman, Oregon.
The big difference between the two polluters was that Boardman only has a population of about fifty people, and the electric plant is a couple miles out of town. Nyssa on the other hand is a town of about five-thousand people and the sugar factory sets right next to the town. 1990 was also the year when the union ( Teamsters) workers at the plant finally decided to go on strike for better wages and safer working conditions. This action should have been taken decades ago, but due to collusion between union and company officials, nothing was ever done.
If the EPA had not declared the factory a serious polluter, I believe it would still be business as usual there. Ethics within the Company Over the years the company has had many run ins with the law. In 1955, local land owners who had land that bordered the Snake river, sued the factory for dumping raw factory waste directly into the Snake river. In 1971 and 1980, the company and it chief competitors were all sued for price fixing. In 1997 the factory was sued successfully in a wrongful death law suit when an employee was crushed by a rail car full of coal, Coleman,(1997).
Along with these problems, the Nyssa factory has always had more than it’s share of employee thefts, sabotage, and violence. I believe many of these problems are contributed to by economic forces such as poor wages, and benefits, and also to poor working conditions. The company has taken a more proactive stance against these types of problems by hiring more security personnel, and by using more effective preemployment screening. One problem which often circumvents these measures at the factory is the common practice of nepotism among management.
Nepotism is the unfair practice in which people in power give positions (jobs) in a government or organization to their relatives or friends, rather than to someone who is more qualified. This practice can lead to low moral among workers which often causes inefficiency in the functioning of an organization. Nepotism can also cause conflicting loyalties for the person who received the job, since he or she may be more loyal to the person who hired them, rather than to the organization. Diversity and Equal Employment Opportunities
Over the years the demographics have changed in the small town where the factory is located. When I first went to work there in 1970 is predominantly white with Hispanics making up the next largest group at about twenty percent, with a few Japanese and native Americans making up the remainder of the population. The factory workers at the time mirrored these demographics. Today these demographics have changed dramaticly. Now the Hispanic population represents almost seventy-five percent of the population in the small town, with the white and other races being in the minority.
Because of this shift the town now suffers from the same problems as larger more populated areas in regards to gangs, drugs, violence and illegal immigration. These new demographics no longer mirror the demographics at the sugar factory, which still has a majority of white workers. In the past the work ethic of the Hispanic workers was valued, but now because of the high crime rates, combined with other factors such as the increased public expenses for medical, welfare, schools, and other problems related to illegal immigrations which has befallen the area, which most blame on the tremendous increase in the Hispanic population.
Because of these problems the Hispanic workers are no longer seen as the valued workers they once were. Therefore, the employment opportunities for Hispanics at the sugar factory have not kept pace with their population increases. I also believe the political climate along with the news media have also helped to fuel the anti Hispanic sentiments which have swept over the country in recent months. The Nyssa factory has long had a diverse work force, and they usually work quite very well together since many of them knew each other and often worked together out in the community, before going to work at the sugar factory.
It is after all a small town. It would be great to be able to say with conviction that the company promotes and values a diverse work force, yet this simply is not the case. The truth is that they have always had such a work force, and since they have never had to work to attain this, they really do not appreciate what diversity means in terms of valuing and respecting differences. HR Planning and Recruitment The majority of the work force, including lower management is recruited through the local state employment offices, and also by applying directly at the factory front office.
Even though the company has changed hands several times since it was founded, the management and the management style have not changed. As mentioned earlier, this is in large part due to nepotism throughout upper management. Unlike most company websites, The Snake River Sugar Company (it’s new name) does not offer a link for careers with the company. In other words, if your not related you need not apply. Conclusion The ailing factory at Nyssa was bought in 1997 by a farmers cooperative consisting of local sugar beet growers, most, by going heavily into debt.
Unfortunately, the new owners of the factory, like past owners, kept the same management team, with the same outmoded management style at the factory. It was publicized that the old factory would close for good in 2005 due to a combination of poor sugar prices, poor crop yields, and union demands for wage increases, among others. Even with all its problems it has somehow managed to stay open. I would not want to see it closed since it is the largest employer in what is a very economically depressed area.
I believe in order for this factory to be successful in the future, a complete restructuring needs to take place starting at the top, with new top and middle management. They need people with new and fresh approaches to Human Resource Management, who will put the health and safety of the workers ahead of profit. They also need to down size and streamline their management personnel so there will be less people to procrastinate and pass the buck when something really needs to be done.
The factory has been doing the same things the same way with the same suppliers and buyers for so long, that they have become entrenched in the way they do business, which is costing the factory millions of dollars. For these reasons, a serious cost cutting program needs to be established. I realize that during these hard economic times that raising wages or increasing benefits may not be feasible, however I think that there are many other things that can be done to increase morale and worker satisfaction within the factory.
Better lighting and ventilation in certain parts of the factory would be a good start. Newer more reliable and safer equipment and machinery would also contribute to safety, efficiency, and morale. I have discussed my organization and many of the HRM problems, and some of the solutions which might help to solve the problems which face the factory. As to whether or not the old factory will survive, only time will tell. References Ivancevich, J, M. ,(2008) Human resource management: McGraw-Hill, New york, New York
Bachman, J, R. ,(1962) Story of the Amalgamated Sugar Company, 1897-1962. Caxton Printers, Caldwell, Idaho. Duin, S. , (1990-08-10) Article:”The Case of Death? Dont List The Owl” The Oregonian News Paper, Portland, Oregon: pp B05. Coleman, J . ,(1997-04-17)Article:”Nyssa factory Appeals Fines Levied After Workers Death” The Oregonian News Paper, Portland, Oregon: pp E04 Lingham, L. , (2008)Article : Human Resources; Retrieved August 27, 2010. from http://www. allexperts. com
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