At Lincoln Electric, a Leading Maker of Welding Machines, Jobs Are Guaranteed

No layoffs rule has roots when company was founded during industrial revolution.

ByABC News
July 17, 2010, 6:26 PM

CLEVELAND, July 17, 2010 — -- With unemployment hovering just under 10 percent, millions of Americans can only dream of having a guaranteed job. That's exactly the situation for Mark Wells who finds comfort in the fact that he won't be laid off.

"It has been a tough couple of years, and I know a lot of people who have lost their jobs or can't find work," Wells told ABC News at his home in Ohio. "I was on reduced hours, but I was able to go in and go to work every day, and I saw a paycheck coming in.

"And that means a lot when you know you're going to have something there at the end of the day that you can take care of your family," he said.

Wells, a tool and die maker, is one of thousands of employees at Cleveland's Lincoln Electric, which promises that even in the worst of times, no one will be laid off. The $2 billion company is the leading maker of welding machines.

Walking the factory floor north of downtown Cleveland, I asked CEO John Stropki how, in the depths of recession, he could avoid laying off any of his workers.

"Because we don't lay off workers, it's as simple as that," he said. "If you make a commitment that you're not gonna do it, then you find ways not to do it."

It's a way of doing business which dates back to the company's founding during the industrial revolution. In the late 1800s, John Lincoln started making electric motors. A few years later he brought in his brother, James, to run the business. The brothers, sons of a preacher, believed in the "golden rule:" treat people as you would like to be treated.

James Lincoln had an open-door policy, according to Frank Koller, who wrote "Spark," a book about Lincoln Electric.

"The only way to get people to demonstrate what he believed was the innate ingenuity of people, their ability to take risks, to really put themselves on the line for the corporation," he said.

That is, if they didn't have to worry about their income, then they would stay loyal and stay good employees.

"And from that grew the idea of guaranteed employment," Koller said.