A greasy little north Spokane engine shop gave its employees a $428,000 Christmas gift on Friday.
Though corporate downsizing is more the norm, Motor Works, an engine remanufacturing company at 1020 N. Haven, is sharing 30 percent of its annual profits with its 80 employees - 12 days before Christmas.
“Santa’s going to be real good to my girls this year,” said Troy Bauer, who’s been with the company for more than three years. “My bonuses have doubled every year I’ve worked here.”
Many employees like Bauer, who have at least three years of experience, received $8,000. Even employees who’ve been with the 15-year-old company for only a few weeks got a cut.
“OK, I’m totally exploding,” said Heather Feryn, 20. Her eyes were wide, she was quivering with excitement. “It’s $180-plus - for three weeks. I’ve had three paychecks. I was not expecting that at all. That makes my day.”
“At most companies, it’s just a $10 gift certificate,” said Paul Lund, a five-year employee.
Laughing workers clad in oil-stained jumpsuits and baseball hats clapped one another on the back, strolling through the warehouse stacked high with parts. The smell of oil hung in the air.
“I heard Noah’s having a big party!” yelled one employee.
This is pay-off time, and these workers say they’re getting what they deserve for the hours they’ve clocked.
Their bosses agree.
“The company is ‘we.’ It’s not ‘I’ or ‘them,”’ said Gil Leon, vice president. “The only magic I know is the desire to be successful. We’re giving them the ability to be successful.”
The philosophy plays out in different ways. Many employees are hired with no mechanical experience. All that’s required, Leon said, is attitude, attendance and the ability to learn.
“If someone came in and said, ‘I want to be the best sweeper in the whole wide world, I’d be foolish not to hire that person,” Leon said.
Melissa Eckley is one of those people. She had no mechanical skills and was hired because of her attitude. Astounded with her company’s generosity, she plans to pass it on.
With her money, Eckley plans to pay off bills and shop. She’ll also send “surprise money” to less fortunate friends, with a note that says, “From Santa.”
“You know, just like 100 bucks for groceries,” she said.
It’s easy to see how the incentives and respect given them by management has energized these workers.
“I’m very proud of the product we put out here,” Lund said. “My dad has a Motor Works engine, and both my brothers do. We set the standard.”
For many of these employees, the profit-sharing check equals one-third of their salary.
A Spokane benefits consultant said that’s unheard of for companies that size.
“You normally only see that (percentage) in executive positions at big corporations,” said Richard Phenneger, of Phenneger and Morgan.
“That’s a phenomenal return to employees.”
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo