Chobani continues the trend of being proactive and investing in its employees
“We just think it’s the simple, right thing to do”
TWIN FALLS, Idaho (KMVT/KSVT) — President Joe Biden spent his first week in office signing a flurry of executive orders aimed at addressing the coronavirus and the economy. One of his orders raises the minimum wage for a group of workers to $15 an hour, and some feel raising the minimum wage will set a dangerous precedent that could hurt employers and cost jobs, but one business in Twin Falls has proven it is possible to invest in employees and turn a profit.
This past week President Biden signed 30 executive actions and one of them will begin the process of requiring that everyone working for the federal government be paid a minimum of $15 an hour.
“No one in America should work 40 hours a week making below the poverty line. Fifteen dollars gets people above the poverty line,” said the President. “We have so many million Americans working 40 hours a week, some with two jobs, and they are still below the poverty line.”
Currently, 21 states pay a federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, one of them is Idaho. Some lawmakers fear the president’s order will start the debate for the federal minimum wage to be increased, and some of Idaho’s lawmakers, like Rep. Russ Fulcher, have been vocal on social media about wage increases creating fewer jobs.
Last Fall, Democratic Idaho House Representative Sally Toone, of District 26, told KMVT that she feels its time for the minimum wage to be increased in the Gem State, and help locals out.
“We have priced some of our housing out of reach for young families. We have to raise wages,” Toone said.
However, one company in Twin Falls was way ahead of the president’s order and has developed a trend of being proactive and putting its employees first. In Twin Falls, Chobani employs more than 1,000 people, and this past Fall the Greek yogurt company announced its starting hourly wage will increase to at least $15 an hour in the first quarter of 2021, with the average employee making around $19 an hour.
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Chobani has implemented extensive health and safety measures to keep its people and their families safe. The company created additional innovative ways to support its employees, including paying special incremental bonuses to all hourly plant employees for the past three quarters and a daily childcare subsidy to support those who suddenly found themselves without childcare options.
Peter McGuinness, who is the President & COO of Chobani, said the manufacturing facility in Twin Falls is quite large, and it’s the largest yogurt factory in the world. At the facility, they do more than yogurt. They do milk, creamers, and now ready to drink coffee. He said he doesn’t see the $15 an hour wage as a huge expense.
“I don’t want to impose Chobani ways on other companies but if more companies stepped up we could really make a difference, " said McGuinness. “You can do it. It is within your P&L , but the question is how much profit is too much profit.”
He also said raising wages to a competitive level is a good investment for a company because it creates, “less attrition, you will have higher productivity, you will have happier employees, and in the end, it pays for itself.”
The company also announced recently it will cover up to six hours of time for Chobani employees to get vaccinated, Three hours for each of the two vaccine doses when it is available for its employees.
“We just think it is the simple right thing to do. We did a very similar thing a few months ago to have them vote, " said McGuinness. “We closed the company entirely, including the factories to let everyone go vote because it is their civic duty.”
In the future, citizens in Idaho will see if more companies follow Choabani’s business model of investing in its employees and putting them first, so the federal government doesn’t have to step in.
“It’s sad that not many, if any in food manufacturing, pay $15 minimum,” McGuinness said.
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