Company benefits or lack thereof

Author Michael Deren
July 31, 2019 - 08:00am

As readers of this column know, I’ve worked for several manufacturers over my career: some good, some not so good. One thing that they have had in common, though, is they all provided benefits in some form.

Early in my career, I worked at a company in Chicago for a few years that paid well and had great benefits for that time. We had something like 12 paid holidays, terrific company-paid health insurance—but no dental or vision coverage—and a pension plan paid 100% by the company. Those were the benefits for regular laborers at the plant. Eventually, I reached salary status at the company when I became the machine programmer. In addition to the benefits listed, I received what was similar to a modern 401(k) program. I could contribute up to 7% of my salary, and my contribution was matched 100%. In retrospect, I was an idiot at the time to leave. Ah, the young and the restless.

I left that company to work as an applications engineer for a machine tool builder. I took the job assuming I would be paid biweekly like my previous job. Not! I wasn’t paid weekly either. Monthly! I had to not only stretch my paycheck but adjust to the government taking a bigger percentage due to the size of the checks. Sure, I got a refund at tax time, but I needed money when I was paid. I stuck it out for a couple of years there and then moved on. During those years, people changed jobs for even a quarter more an hour and didn’t think twice about it.

Then, I worked on contract for several years. I got decent pay but no benefits to speak of. If I took off a day, I didn’t get paid. If I wanted insurance, some companies didn’t offer any. The ones that did provide insurance charged what seemed a prohibitive price. Typically, there was no pension or 401(k) and no paid holidays. I did get paid 1.5 times my normal pay rate for overtime. 

One contract house out East did pay for my holidays. After one year, the company even gave vacation pay. It wasn’t much, but a week was a week. Insurance remained pricey, and there still was no pension. I could contribute to a 401(k), but there was no match.

Another company I worked for in the East paid well. It had a good health plan and a 401(k). There was still no dental or vision, though. I got nine paid holidays plus three sick days. The bonus plan was really nice. It was on a bimonthly schedule and usually in the range of $750 to $800. After the business was acquired, the bonuses became smaller and semiannual.

There were good benefits at another company I worked at for several years. It provided a few paid holidays, sick days and personal days, along with two weeks of vacation in the first year and three weeks of vacation after five years. A 401(k) was matched up to 6%. An annual bonus also was paid. Last but not least were the company luncheons and breakfasts.

The company I work for now isn’t too shabby with benefits. It is as good as or better than any of my previous employers. I don’t have anything to compare outside the companies where I’ve worked. How does your company fare? I’d be interested to find out.    


Machinist's Corner Columnist

Michael Deren is a manufacturing engineer/project manager and a regular CTE contributor. He can be reached via e-mail at