Watertown, WI -- When an early morning fire destroyed the Johnsonville plant, John Kaliebe, supervisor, was devastated. He didn't know if his employees were going to still have jobs. But, what the Johnsonville Plant did next helped not only the employees, but the entire community.
"I saw all the fire trucks and ambulances and my heart just sunk down to my feet," said Kaliebe. The fire had destroyed the meat processing plant where Kaliebe had worked for thirty years.
Kaliebe and the 120 plant employees were in luck. Johnsonville has spent $10 million renovating a new plant and paying its workers while it is doing it. The plant has paid out 7,000 hours of work plus benefits and bonuses over the past seven months while they renovate the building. Once the renovated plant is open, 30 additional employees will be added.
The plan't employees receive their normal salary, benefits, and bonus if they complete one of three things each month: volunteer at a local organization, take training classes at a local technical school, or work in another Johnsonville plant.
"People are amazed that they are continuing to pay their workers to do these things," said John David, mayor of the city of 24,000. "It's going above and beyond for sure."
The local community is reaping the benefits of this arrangement. Each month, employees turn in their volunteer timesheets. So far, plant employees have spent 2,500 hours clearing trees from the airport runway, 500 hours landscaping the local historical society, and also volunteered to paint city hall, and the police and fire departments among other volunteer activities.
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