Judging from its reported problems, Landis Plastics in Solvay, N.Y., will not qualify as one of the 100 best companies to work for in this country. A unionization target by the United Steelworkers of America, the Chicago Ridge, Ill.-based injection molding company is the subject of federal and state investigations over its worker safety record. The Solvay operation also has drawn the wrath of a Catholic auxiliary bishop in nearby Syracuse and New York legislators for its treatment of employees, many of them single mothers.
During the past 15 months, four workers have severed fingers in machinery. In the last 12 months, 25 percent of the plant's 200 employees have missed work as the result of job-related injuries. The injury rate at the Solvay facility is nearly 100 times greater than at a typical New York plant, according to union organizers and state figures cited in a report by The New York Times.
Both the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the New York Attorney General are investigating Landis for failure to properly report employee injuries, as required by law. Meanwhile, the National Labor Relations Board says the company illegally fired and punished workers who sought unionization by the steelworkers' union.
Landis, which has hired a consultant to review its plant safety program, denies the latter. It also says every effort has been made to ensure safe operations. And, notes a spokesman, injured employees received quality medical care and compensation for lost work time.
Unfortunately for the company, the latter is not in dispute. The treatment of women and questions about pay, safety and the dignity of individuals in the workplace are - and they are issues the union understands resonate well with the public.
At best, the perception is that Landis is an example of insensitive management. At worst, the company is seen as a renegade employer. The truth is as elusive as the public relations battle is intense. You can count (again) among the wounded the reputation of the plastics industry.