OK Foods has a long history of criminal, discriminatory, or unethical practices. Most recently, the company has been facing financial losses of $3-6 million per month for close to 8 months. Their bank, First National, has been seriously considering their ability to stay afloat and has been closely auditing the company to justify further loans. It must help that OK's owner, Collier Wenderoth, holds a seat on the bank's management board; God bless interlocking directorships. Because of their losses, due to perpetually poor management (which they have always acknowledged) and always being embroiled in litigation, they are also considering breaking their contracts with with their buyers (i.e. restaurants, grocers, the military, and institutions).
The past year and a half has been terrible, as all of their problems they have ignored all collided at once with the agitation of corn prices. In the span of two months, 2 presidents, a vice president, 3 general managers, and a host of other employees have been fired. The IT department has colluded with top executives and planted or found any reason possible to fire lower level employees for fraudulent reasons to avoid paying severance packages, unused vacation days, or unemployment taxes. They are scared, paranoid, frustrated, and very angry.
This is just the present. In 2007, OK appealed a court decision awarding millions to poultry growers (those who contract with OK to raise chickens for slaughter) in response to OK's business practices. The company engages in monopsony with these growers and has perpetually screwed over these people. A chicken house is expensive, ranging from $300,000 to over $1 million. The chicken houses have to meet arbitrary specifications set by OK, and these specifications are raised over time; houses must be upgraded using materials, suppliers, and builders approved by OK (their buddies). Next, all chickens, feed, pharmaceuticals, and supplies must come from OK, delivered by OK employees. The cost of all of these determines the growers paycheck. Many of them literally receive zero compensation for flocks, yet they still have to pay the all mortgages, the heating gas bill (usually $500-$4,000 per month in the winter), and any hired help. There's only time for 3, sometimes 4, flocks per year. If OK management is displeased by something as trivial as how the grower cuts his lawn, then they may delay the placement of a new flock; sometimes for up to 4 months.
To paraphrase all of this, OK sets the rules, sets the pay, and sets the time table. The grower has no recourse or say in the operation of his farmhouses. Its as if someone leases a property for someone else, takes care of all the bills and operating labor, and shares in none the profits.
Not surprisingly, the company sees their employees as expendable assets, as well. They have been sued by former employees for injuries and sex discrimination, and firing anyone supporting these employees' decisions. Since many of their plant workers are not Caucasian (white-skinned), OK's legal defense describes the plaintiffs in racist terms, mocking their cultural background, national status (such as Vietnamese refugees), accent, and appearance rather than the merits of their case.
Working at OK is like a family affair: relatives get preferential hiring and treatment. No matter if those relatives make death threats or show violence on the work floor, they will stay as long as their manager-level relative works there. The HR complaint process prevents any unfavored employees from seeking recourse or denting harassing employees' records. Its a privately owned, privately run family business of good old southern boys. Of all the places I have worked, none have such a poisonous, hostile, and active social environment as the corporate office.
Think of a bunch of women (though men are included in this group) who hate their lives, their bodies, and all men, yet somehow find a common bond of hate, and you have the right idea of what its like to work there. Their focus, including management, is not on doing the best work possible (hence why the company in bankrupting itself), but rather mending friendships and destroying undesirables. The amount of collusion between these miserable bodies is something that is hard to find outisde female juvenile detention facilities. According to my research, this attitude and modus operandi comes from the top down. I guess it serves a purpose: its much easier to come up with negative reasons to fire employees to avoid paying severance or tax penalties. And the Christmas bonus? Production run-off and rejected turkeys from another poultry company that have been hanging around an OK freezer for 13 years. They're still good, right?
To comply with congressional law stating that companies are responsible for employee healthcare, OK has taken it upon themselves to not contract out insurance but rather build their own walk-in clinics and collect their own insurance premiums. Sounds like a nice thing to do, but the company's policy bars any employee from being hired unless they accept enrollment in the company health plan. Its possible to opt out if you possess an arbitrarily-approved plan, but these "approved plans" are next to impossible to obtain and include only certain government programs (MediCare, MedicAid) and health plans from other companies (your spouse, unless you work 80hrs/wk for two companies). Single employee coverage is $650+/yr, adding a spouse raises it to $1,800/yr, and so on for adding children. Enrollment into optional dental or vision plans ALSO enrolls all spouses and children. So if mommy wants dental insurance, daddy has to pay for himself, too, and also for 4 month old, toothless, daughter Katie.
This mandatory payment works out nicely for OK, since it lessens its payroll tax burden for about 4,000 employees (3,777 as of 2007). Also, these funds are deposited into OK's own rainy-day fund, accruing a healthy $3 million dollars in interest per year in addition to whatever they gain by their employee theft. Any claims for medical care must be approved by OK staff (both nurses and bureaucrats). So, they set the ransom, they set the terms, and they determine what constitutes necessary medical care. These funds can be used to satisfy salaries for plant nurses, construction projects, and anything remotely health-related. If the company ever decides to quit its health program, then they will have a huge sack of money to play with and no requirements to refund anyone.
Back in 1996, a tornado hit the Fort Smith area and caused widespread property damage. Like most businesses, OK filed an insurance claim. Their management, if asked, will make it seem like it was for broken windows, but read on. FBI agents raided OK's offices and interrograted most executive-level staffmembers. One of them fessed up to conspiracy and landed a year in jail, probably to "take the hit" for everyone else. Maybe he got a million dollars in the end for being a team player, I don't know. This seems like quite a bit of fuss for a broken window, but it wasn't quite that simple. The tornado damaged two warehouses: one insured and one uninsured (why any company would not insure all of their property is beyond me, unless they had a plan...). The uninsured warehouse had a very high value of goods residing in it, and most or all of this property was moved to the INSURED warehouse so that they could make a claim on it. Furthermore, very little of this property was damaged but OK did not report this throughout the legal proceedings and instead expected to collect the full value of it. Eventually, the family elites finalized their game plan and put on their typical parade of deny, accuse, destroy and were let off the hook.
Raising and killing billions of chickens per year naturally makes for a lot of chicken poo. This could be sold off as fertilizer, bio-fuel material, or something useful, but instead its dumped into the river or left to seep into the water table. The company has contracts with multiple city water supplies, and has consistently been cited by environmental agencies for excessive pollution (the water we drink) and breach of contract (as in the city of Sallisaw, who had their facilities damaged by excessive chicken excrement and parts).
But everything is alright at OK, just like their name states. As you'd expect, they thrive on hiring illegal immigrants to pay them $4/hr and felons and drug addicts to pay them minimum wage since no one else will hire them. According to more recent news reports, it appears that the Sebastian County sheriff has let OK into the local government's Old Boys' Network by providing "security," free of charge at taxpayer expense, at OK's annual picnic, which hosts around 2,000 illegal immigrants. To this day, the company is raided by federal immigration officials. Typically, the company will be tipped off to a raid, then the entire plant of 500 people with begin rushing out the building. OK has and always will exploit these people, and has gone so far as to (unofficially) pick up groups at the border and bring them to work in the chicken plant.
So, we have a company who's always getting sued, breaking contracts, helping themselves like gluttons, and screwing anyone who gets in the way of their money or ego. Convenient; and nice.
Collier Wenderoth (too old, hardly does anything)
Randall 'Randy' W. Goins
Ronald 'Ron' E. Brown
Both presidents of Industries and Foods have been fired, and the position is vacant. Randy Goins will be taking care of their duties for the time being.
Fort Smith, Arkansas