I began working for the Schwans Corp. in August of 2005 as a Route Manager. Upon hire, It was drilled into each and every person at NEO (New Employee Orientation) that we were governed by the rules, law & regulations set forth by the D.O.T (Dept. Of Transportation). We had tests which constantly repeated how important it was to continuously follow those rules.
Immediately upon coming to work, we are to "clock in" using a computerized handheld device referred to as our "HHC". Wisconsin D.O.T requires us to do so because a "driver" may only be on-duty for 14 hours max.
After "clocking in", we are required to verify our load, inspect the truck, complete any necessary paperwork for that day, speak to our supervisors pertaining to any issues that are planned or need to be addressed for that working day and at times, attend meetings.
Not on one or two ocassions, not on a few ocassions, but every single day, Schwans did not follow Wisconsin Law and conveyed to all employees that by "clocking in" while we are performing our daily duties prior to departure from the depot, we are taking away precious time which could be better used selling.
You see, the less time our trucks are out there, the less time we are out there pushing their products, and the less money they are making. I brought this very subject up to my supervisors on many ocassions and because of my wanting to follow state law and not get a ticket or violation (which I would be liable for myself), the management at the Marshfield, WI. depot began to act differently towards me.
At first, no "good morning's", then odd stares directed towards me, and then total shunning by not communicating with me about subjects which pertained solely to work practices.
Because I spoke up, I was placed on suspension for something which in no way was related to this topic. I was told that I was under investigation for "charging" which means that Schwan's customers cannot charge what they purchase unless they 1) Own a business 2) Own a farm 3) Have a State licensed daycare. The reasoning behind this is because quote "We can't trust they will pay us" and "they have something we can go after if they do not pay us".
I was called into the office this morning and interrogated by both managers in reference to a charge print off which was from my route system. Customer #1 - A business owner who allowed his employee to charge under his account was allowed to charge by me because the owner of the business allowe that employee to charge on his account because the employee did not have the funds whith which to pay me at that time. I would simply collect the charge when I returned to service that person in 1 month. Customer #2 - A business owner who had a personal account and a business account charged for product, yet was accidentally placed in her personal account as a charge. Same account, same customer, yet because it was placed on her personal account, the company thought there was enough room to cause a gripe. Customer #3 - A farmer whose business / income is in fact that farm. Is the farm a business? Answer-Yes! They have charged for years prior to me taking over their route, yet now it comes into question? Many more were on that sheet, and all of those exactly like the 3 I just mentioned.
Fuel surcharge! A few months back due to the increase in the price of fuel, the company implemented a fuel surcharge as many companies did when gas prices went up. Keep in mind, Schwan's buys in bulk, and runs on propane (less 1 truck in our depot which runs on diesel). This company sent out fliers telling their customers that they would be charging this surcharge until the price of fuel dropped. Well, the price did drop, but at $1 per customer multiplied by the amount of buying customers each day at Schwans, why did they not want to give that up.... money?
I was told that the customers who wanted to quote "be pricks and whiners about the charge could have it waved" because we want the money from the customer and rather take the $1 hit than lose them. Later, because corporate found out we had been waving the dollar fee on select customers, they buckled down and from the top, the crap rolled down hill finally coming to me. Another meeting between management and myself asking why I elected to not charge the surcharge.... my answer... because they told me to do so (management). They claimed they did not authorize that.
DOES IT SEEM like everytime big business is accused of something, that the person who pointing the finger is always wrong, misled, dillusional or anything other than lying? Come on...when is the last time we have ever seen a company say "You caught me, I was wrong and we will take whatever penalty we have coming"? MONEY, MONEY, GREED & MONEY is what keeps them lying.
Not to many years ago, Schwans was not under the rule of the D.O.T and could run their trucks 24 hours a day if the driver was willing or the management at Schwans wanted them out there. Now, because of the new laws, Schwans was forced to limit the time they are out on the road. Less hours on the road meant more money. So, they needed a few more tricks to keep the flow coming in as it once was.
Many things I have personally seen Schwan's do, which management has got to be aware of but chooses not to acknowlege are mentioned below. They cannot deny it, because if a truck is allowed to be out 14 hours per day and is out 16, that there is a clear indication of their choice not to follow the laws.
In an attempt to not be under D.O.T violation, many drivers were seen not signing in upon entering the depot, and upon leaving the depot not clocking in. The employee would have the paper D.O.T slip filled out in the event law enforcement pulled them over, but they had not yet logged into their handheld.
Other ways around the D.O.T were to take orders manually, writing the orders down with what a customer purchased, how much it came to and in what form the customer paid. Then, when the Route Manager had traveled to their sales area, serviced the customers they wanted to and felt they had a comfortable amount of time to make their sales and service existing customers, they would log into their handheld and punch in their orders from the customers they service off duty.
Meeting held at the depot's, usually bi-weekly are not paid. Paid solely on comission, we make money when we are selling. Unfortunately, management holds "required mandatory meetings" which we must attend, or face scrutingy by management for not being there or not being a team player. These meeting are still by law considered on duty, yet we never could clock in for these meeting because they were at times more than 1 hour in length and took away from our sales times.
I was told by the Wisconsin Dept. of Labor that if paid comission, by law you must still bring in minimum wage for each hour worked, regardless of your pay status. So, if you were to work 10 hours at Schwans, you would still be required to pull in at Wisconsin minimum wage ($5.70) for a total of $57.00 before taxes. If not, the company is required to still pay you the difference to bring it to the minimum wage requirements. Thought I would add that, as I know thousands of Route Managers are out there working 80+ hours per week and when their paycheck is weighed with their hours worked, it does not even come close. I will do some checking, and hope it is true, because in that case, Schwans owes a whole truck load of money to those who have given their precious life, family time and sanity to keeping them the company they are.
Well, enough for today, but more is to come.