At Gilster-Mary Lee Corporation—a food manufacturer headquartered in Chester, Illinois—the impact of COVID-19 is deeply personal. In April 2020, their CEO, Don Welge, passed away due to the virus.
“It was a time when there was not a lot known about the virus,” said CEO Tom Welge, who is Don’s son. “He was very much the spirit of the company, and we found ourselves without him at a time when demand was blowing up for groceries as everybody began staying home and the supply chain was starting to be disrupted. It was a very challenging year, and we were without our captain.”
A year later, that heartbreaking experience has made Welge especially supportive of the nationwide vaccination campaign and motivated to get his company’s workers vaccinated. He spoke to us recently about Gilster-Mary Lee’s methods for overcoming vaccine hesitancy and its efforts to run its own vaccine clinics.
Reducing vaccine hesitancy: The company is taking a multistep approach to help employees become comfortable with vaccination—from disseminating the NAM’s materials and fact sheets to coordinating with state and local health associations to creating its own informational products. But the most critical piece, according to Welge, is communication.
- “Probably the most important thing is consistent messaging and conversations,” said Welge. “We engaged our managers to make sure they were on board, and then we asked them to go out and evangelize the teams that they work with.”
Open engagement: “You’ve got to be open to answering questions that people have about the vaccine, and not belittle any questions that are brought to you,” said Welge. “At the end of the day, it’s still a decision that an individual has to make—and all we can do is point out all the advantages.”
Vaccination stations: Gilster-Mary Lee isn’t only encouraging its employees to receive the vaccine; the company is also bringing the vaccine directly to them by setting up vaccination clinics at its facilities—a process that was no small feat.
- “You make a lot of calls—you find the right person to talk to at a health care agency or a pharmacy and have a friendly conversation,” said Welge. “We are all aligned on what the mission is: we want to get as many doses to as many people as possible. If you show that you are somebody who will do whatever it takes to make this work, they’ll say let’s work with these guys.”
Pictures at a vaccination: NAM Director of Photography David Bohrer captured one of Gilster-Mary Lee’s vaccination events on April 1. The county health department sent over staff to give the Moderna vaccine to more than 150 workers at the company’s Perryville, Missouri, facility.
Here is Perry County Registered Nurse Amy Hector filling a shot from a vaccine vial:
Workers who are coming off an overnight shift or starting their day shift get vaccinated:
A nurse wears a pro-vaccine shirt in the picture below—sending the right message!
And last, getting your first vaccine dose is definitely worth smiling about. Here’s Gilster-Mary Lee employee Claudia Bohnert showing off a new Band-Aid where she received her first shot.
The bottom line: Welge is adamant in his support of vaccinations. As he puts it—and tells his employees—“This is a decision that protects you, protects your family and protects your coworkers.”
Timmons says: NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons said about Welge’s efforts, “Having lost my father to COVID-19, I know what the Welge family has endured. And I know how it strengthens your resolve to see everyone get vaccinated. No one should have to feel the immense pain of losing a loved one to COVID-19. And thankfully, now with the vaccines, we can protect all of our loved ones.”
ANN ARBOR, MICH. – The National Association of Manufacturers announced today that it will offer an association health plan to its members, extending affordable health care to small and medium-sized manufacturing companies and member associations in approved states. In states where the association health plan is not available, the NAM will connect manufacturers with available small-group options in their state.
“This association health plan is another step in our work to make the NAM a one-stop shop for manufacturing across the United States,” said NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons. “With small and medium-sized businesses making up more than 90 percent of our membership, this plan will help provide health care and reduce uncertainty for workers and their employers across the country.”
The plan, called NAM Health Care (www.namhealthcare.com), was developed to meet manufacturers’ unique health care needs. It will offer a portfolio of health benefits options insured by UnitedHealthcare. In states where these plans are available, businesses with 2 to 99 employees will be able to choose from a variety of PPO (Preferred Provider Organization) and HSA (Health Savings Account) health plans. Members will also have access to UnitedHealthcare’s Choice Plus care provider network of more than 1.2 million physicians and care professionals and 6,500 hospitals and other care facilities nationwide. UnitedHealthcare will work with any licensed or appointed agents who want to sell NAM Health Care.
In addition, Mercer will provide the NAM’s small business members with consulting services regarding health benefits offerings and contribution strategies, marketing support to educate and enroll their employees, plan administration and compliance services. The Mercer Affinity 365+sm platform will provide members technology for quoting, enrollment and ongoing benefits administration to drive cost efficiencies and facilitate employee engagement.
Association health plans allow companies to band together to manage and purchase health care coverage that may save on annual health insurance costs by providing plans that are typically enjoyed by larger companies at a competitive price. Under NAM Health Care, eligible member companies also will have access to supplemental benefits, including dental, vision and life.
“The work that manufacturers are doing every day grows the economy and strengthens our country, and they deserve the health care they need to do that job with certainty and support,” said Timmons. “At the NAM, we are proud to help lower costs and increase competitive health coverage for the men and women who make things in America.”
NAM Health Care is quoting these plans for eligible member groups for a Sept. 1, 2019, enrollment date. To enroll in these plans, where available, interested businesses may visit www.namhealthcare.com.