Tuesday, September 11, 2007

A great legacy bites the dust

The following story was sent to me today by a LinkedIn colleague in Minneapolis:


Andersen shifts away from pension plan

Minneapolis / St. Paul Business Journal - 2:18 PM CDT Tuesday, September 11, 2007by Carissa Wyant Staff Writer

Window manufacturer Andersen Corp. announced changes to its retirement package Tuesday, replacing a pension plan with a 401(k) offering and closing retiree medical coverage to new employees.
Bayport-based Anderson said that the changes will primarily affect new employees hired after Jan. 1, 2008.

The company said that there will be no changes for retired employees, who will continue to receive benefits in place currently. It's replacing its pension system with a defined contribution 401(k) plan and employee stock ownership.

Andersen CEO Jim Humphrey said in a statement, "Although the Andersen pension plan is fully funded, healthy and sustainable for current participants, we've spent quite a bit of time analyzing the company's total retirement benefits package and our ability to sustain it in the long term, given the growth of our employee base as well as legislative, regulatory and accounting standards changes."

Andersen has approximately 14,000 employees across North America.

cwyant@bizjournals.com (612) 288-2108

I was an employee at Andersen Windows as part of their logistics division from 1999 through 2004. Andersen Corporation celebrated their centennial anniversary as a private family-owned company during this time, and maintained and strong and proud tradition based on strong core values, including providing for their employees and their ability to earn a good living both during and after their careers with Andersen. This was one of a number of strongly held core values that was dubbed "The Andersen Employee Covenant" by Human Resources during this period.

Until today, Andersen was one of the few employers able to offer a what were in my eyes extraordinarily excellent retirement benefits to their employees including pension, 401k and others. This was one of the things that we were able to talk about with prospective recruits whether newly minted graduates, hourly employees, or seasoned managers who were thinking of leaving a good job elsewhere for a career at Andersen Windows.

This strong benefits package and Andersen's conviction of sticking to its long time core values about treating employees fairly and conducting themselves as an ethical employer at all times allowed us to achieve the unprecedented accomplishment of seeing 9 different employee bargaining units with a number of unions, including the Teamsters and the Carpenters vote their union representation away because of the way employees were treated and taken care of, and the ability to present credible and truthful statements which employees could bank on.

This blog is not intended to impugn or malign Andersen in any way, or even to question whether this announced change is "right" or "wrong". I am still a stock holder in the Andersen ESOT, a proud former employee, and a good friend to several current employees. It just saddens me to see that another great employer has been forced by economic reality to take a step back from excellence and sacrifice a little bit of something that I was always personally proud to talk about, and that I think the corporation also took great pride in being able to provide to their employees. I don't know any details of the new plan, and don't know how it will compare, but logic dictates that this move was made to defer excessive future costs as Andersen continues to grow in size of employee population.

I am just sad to see a great tradition end today.

I am also saddened to reflect on the fact that I was sitting in the main conference at Andersen Headquarters in Bayport Minnesota when we heard about the 9/11/2001 disaster. Condolences to the family and friends of all the who suffered losses that day.

Michael VanDervort
Tampa Florida USA

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