Policy at Food LionA Sept. 23 article in The Sun, titled...


November 07, 1992

Policy at Food Lion

A Sept. 23 article in The Sun, titled "A wage law with no teeth," contained some information that is not only misleading, but false.

As a vice president of Food Lion Inc., I feel I owe it to my fellow 30,000 stockholders and fellow 60,000 employees to set the record straight.

The article cited testimony before a House subcommittee by Food Lion employees regarding allegations that we "routinely forced employees to work off-the-clock."

What the article did not say was that our indications from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) are that, after a one-year DOL investigation involving 50 investigators and thousands of interviews, they found preliminary evidence of only 238 claims, and that's out of more than 170,000 current and former Food Lion employees.

This is supported by the fact that in anonymous opinion surveys taken of Food Lion employees, over 90 percent stated that no working off-the-clock occurs. That figure pretty well supports the DOL investigation's findings.

Food Lion has an extensive and effective system for preventing working off-the-clock:

1. The Food Lion policy is emphasized during new employee orientation, is included in the employee handbook and in each management policy manual and is posted on our employee bulletin boards.

2. A quarterly working off-the-clock newsletter is distributed to management employees and department heads each month, and articles concerning working off-the-clock appear regularly in the Food Lion newsletter, which is sent to all employees.

3. Alleged violations can be reported either on a special "800" number -- anonymously, if desired -- or to any member of management, and all such reports are thoroughly investigated.

4. Inspections for working off-the-clock are regularly performed by Food Lion's regional human resources department investigators, area supervisors, store managers, store auditors, and other management, as well as through the anonymous employee surveys mentioned above.

5. Managers and department heads who require or allow employees to work off-the-clock are generally terminated, and employees are compensated for all time worked.

In short, working off-the-clock is not tolerated (much less encouraged) at Food Lion.

Yet another item in The Sun article which we particularly feel must be corrected is that Food Lion sued Capital Cities/ABC and its producer for trying "to go undercover to report on working conditions at Food Lion." This is not true.

Food Lion's lawsuit was specifically intended to block "Prime Time Live" from airing those portions of the segment which used illegally obtained material.

"Prime Time Live" producer Lynne Litt applied for a job as a meat processor using a fictitious name, falsified her employment application, which she affirmed as being true with her signature, and lied about her past work experience.

Then, after being hired, we believe she tampered with the work area to concoct staged video tape to discredit Food Lion. This is what we firmly believe should not be aired as objective TV news reporting.

Our lawsuit never said we intended to block the airing of any segment attacking Food Lion.

Vincent G. Watkins

Salisbury, N.C.

The writer is Food Lion's vice president of special projects and development.

Surviving with Pride at Sparrows Point Yard

I am writing this letter in response to an Opinion * Commentary article of Oct. 29, "Sustaining Life at the Shipyard." The opinions in this letter are my own and should in no way reflect those of the management of BethShip Sparrows Point Yard.

David Britton painted an extremely morbid picture of life at the shipyard; however, I am sure that Mr. Britton has absolutely no understanding of the U.S. shipbuilding industry and how its recent status has contributed to the situation that he alluded to in his article.

I have been gainfully employed at the shipyard for almost 23 years (28 years if you consider my part-time employment during my college career). During those years, I have watched the yard go from one of the most prestigious tanker design and manufacturing facilities to a surviving repair, overhaul and conversion facility.

The key word in the previous sentence is "surviving." Numerous shipyards throughout our nation have not survived and are in fact dormant. The past history of the Sparrows Point shipyard is one of thousands of employees building numerous ships.

At present, our shipyard is gainfully employing approximately 1,000 workers -- workers who would be added to the unemployment figures if the yard had followed the course that other American shipyards had taken and closed its doors.

The decision by the yard management to downsize to employment figures low enough to support the shipyard's new intended market (repair, conversion and overhaul) is a decision whose difficulty can only be measured by sleepless nights and cold cups of coffee.

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