By Karl Schledwitz
This week an article appeared in your paper largely based on the complaint of a sister of one of our employees (“Virus strikes at Monogram,” May 27). First and foremost, I want to assure everyone that no one takes employee and food safety more seriously than Monogram Foods.
Let me review some of the many actions we have taken. Within two days of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommending the wearing of masks in a policy reversal, we had masks for all of our employees. Shortly thereafter, we also offered face shields as an additional option. For the past five weeks we have done temperature checks for 100% of our employees.
Beginning in March, to encourage people that were sick or thought they might be sick or even those who thought that they might have been exposed, we relaxed our attendance policy. We have strongly encouraged people that are sick or think that they are sick or think that they have been exposed not to come to work. This was outlined in a COVID-19 response policy that was sent company-wide in the middle of March. We also instituted an additional two weeks sick pay for such team members, so that the company paid for the time off to benefit the team members.
We have instituted social distancing everywhere possible within the plant. We have eliminated virtually all visitors from coming into the plant. We have even rented port-a-potties on our parking lot so truck drivers delivering supplies have a place to take a break without coming into the plant. Further, we have put up plexiglass dividers in the break rooms, and spread out work stations in the plant to enhance social distancing. We have staggered our breaks for team members and staggered everything to eliminate congregations. We have installed sanitizing stations at all entry doors and time clocks. All team meetings of more than six individuals where we cannot have at least 6 feet between team members have been eliminated.
I am also proud that we have been trying to encourage safe practices outside of the plant for our team members. For example, we have given each employee extra masks to take home and share with their loved ones or co-renters. Each employee has been given a thermometer so that they can take not only their own temperature but also their loved ones at home or co-renters. Every employee has been provided sanitizer to take home to encourage great healthy habits at home and not just in the plant.
We have taken extra steps in the sanitization of all areas of the plant, including locker rooms and break rooms. We have fogged the plant with chlorine dioxide. In this process, we shut the plant down, and people in hazmat protective wear come in and literally fog the plant with virus killer. We have also fogged the plant with quaternary ammonium several times and break rooms are fogged with this numerous times daily. This is in addition to the cleaning and sanitizing that we conduct daily in the plant in total compliance with stringent USDA regulations.
As CEO of Monogram, I hold a weekly virtual town hall meeting and every week I promise two things. I remind all team members of two commitments of Monogram that there will be no shortcuts and no surprises. Regarding no shortcuts, we go over everything we are doing with regard to people safety and food safety. We encourage feedback, suggestions, and criticisms. We transparently talk about what we are doing. We are proud of what we are doing. Regarding no surprises, we tell everyone immediately when we have a positive and share with them the plans about how to deal with it.
Monogram has nine plants across six states. Martinsville is our largest plant, with almost 700 team members. We are fortunate that we did not receive our first positive confirmation in Martinsville until less than two weeks ago. Since that time with three others confirmed positive, we are taking the extraordinary precaution of shutting the entire plant down and testing all 700 team members. This will happen as soon as we are able to secure the tests. We will not reopen the plant until all tests are back and obviously we will only bring back those who have tested negative or who have become negative. While the plant is shut down, we will once again do a thorough fogging and sanitizing.
Monogram is proud to be part of the Martinsville Henry County Community. One of the values we cherish is giving back to the communities in which we live and work, and our track record of adding jobs, spending locally, and making charitable donations speaks for itself.
Our employee surveys reflect some of the highest employee satisfactions of any plants like ours in the country. We have less than 3% negative ratings with over 85% giving us good to excellent ratings.
Finally, we regard our team members as heroes as they voluntarily make the food America requires in its COVID pandemic. Accordingly, we are honoring them with extra hero pay as we show our thanks and appreciation daily to them.