Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Maybelline's generous gift to all it's employees received absolutely no notice or media attention.

 By Harris A. Neil Jr.
Tom Lyle Williams at his
 home in Bel Air California,
  May, 1968 click to enlarge

On a Saturday in late May, 1968 all eligible Maybelline employees received a letter by registered mail with an announcement—and a check. The announcement was in a letter signed by T. L., and routed through the First National Bank of Chicago, Trust Department.  “It outlined an employee gift that T. L. had put together, whereby each employee would receive a gift of $1000 tax free for each year of employment, from date of hire to December 31, 1967.”

The first year was not in the count, possibly to consider the recent influx of new people in the Plough era. So the count began one year after a person’s date of hire and ended on January 31, 1967.  In further detail, the announcement explained that, under current IRS Regulations, there was a limit of $3000 allowed to both parties tax free, so the total gift, if large enough, would be divided into annual installments of $3000 each. The first check, as large as $3000, was included with the announcement as the first or total payment, depending on eligibility.

That Monday morning the joy was everywhere, people cried and hugged each other, and it was hard to get any work done. Over a short time the word got out to the Plough group as they visited Chicago, and their reaction was one of “sour grapes.” They already expressed views that we were overpaid as a group, and now this! That didn't dampen our collective joy; it was something they’d just have to get over.

It’s hard to relate the impact of this gift across the Maybelline work group. The amount, $1000 for each year of service, applied to every employ without regard to pay level or position with the company. Thus, you could say that it helped the lower-placed person more than a more advanced supervisor or manager. Also, there was no upper eligibility as to time of employment, so a more veteran employee was in for a larger share. In the extreme, I believe this
meant that the longest-serving employee came in for around $33,000, in equal payments of $3000 annually with a final finishing payment to cover all eligible time.

How much was this gift worth, in total? I have no idea, except that it ran into many thousands of dollars. Despite the magnitude of T. L.’s generosity, the gift got absolutely no notice. It escaped media attention, which was very much T. L.’s nature, and the way he would want it.

Almost more than the monetary value of the gift, it gave every person receiving it a big morale boost right when they needed it. Soon enough, the company would be moved physically, first to Memphis then to North Little Rock, Arkansas. To my knowledge, only two people from the “Old Maybelline” group made it to North Little Rock. It was over.  

Stay tuned tomorrow as Harris A. Niel Jr. continues...

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