Snack company avoids hiring seasonal workers, offers overtime to employees

Mid-South

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (NewsNation Now) — The COVID-19 pandemic has affected both big businesses and smaller ones, with many having to lay off or furlough employees, but one small snack company in Arkansas gave its full-time workers the chance to earn overtime during the holiday. 

J and M Foods has been making Janis and Melanie Foods for 30 years. The company started by handing out tasty family treats. 

“When my mom came up with this idea based on her passion for food,” said Janis Thibault of J and M foods. “My sister and I kind of thought she was crazy, but I’ve been doing this with my husband for 30 years now, so owning a small business can be a blessing and a curse but we’ve been so fortunate, and we’ve gotten to work together and do what we love.”    

When the pandemic hit, things change inside the warehouse as the company had to adjust.

“The first thing that came into mine and Scott’s mind was how can we keep our team safe and keep doing what we love,” explained Thibault.

“The year has certainly been an adventure. We spend a lot of time being careful being cautious,” said Janis’ husband Scott who also works with the company.

In March, production shut down, but when things began cooking again, J and M made a choice for safety and to keep its two dozen full-time employees working.

“As we rolled into Q3, Q4, we talked to our staff, and we all kind of looked at it and said ‘let’s work overtime, let’s not risk bringing in people we don’t know, getting extra turnover and risk having to take two weeks off as a whole company,” said Scott. “Let’s kind of lock the doors and build a wall around us and all try to do a little extra and get the job done.” 

Rather than hire the normal 20 part-time holiday helpers, J and M asked its full-time workers to add to their hours. 

“I think it was fun for everybody the first couple of weeks to get the overtime, the fun of that has worn off, everybody is getting tired,” said Scott.

“There’s good and bad, ” said warehouse manager Lang Wittman. “The good is they are happy getting the extra money the extra paycheck, extra money in their paycheck. Usually it’s a Monday through Friday thing and now you have to schedule who’s coming in Saturday who’s coming in Sunday, can you work both days.” 

The plan is working, not only will those employees have more income this season, there have been zero confirmed cases of COVID-19 at the facility. 

“It was terrifying and I’m so happy that we are almost to the busy season and I know we have a way to go before the vaccination hits all around, but we’ve got a good plan in place and it seems to be working, and so I’m ever so grateful and knock on wood it stays that way until people can get vaccinated well enough for us to get past this,” said Janis.

As the Christmas holiday starts to end, this company is thankful for the work done.

“There’s a light at the end of the tunnel, we can see the finish line,” said Wittman.

“I’m going to finish 2020, as crazy as a year as it’s been just very grateful,” added Janis.

J and M is expecting a down year from 2019, but is hopeful for 2021. 

For more on Janis and Melanie click here

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