Manufacturers come from many different communities and backgrounds—and Phoenix Closures, a sixth-generation, family-owned business that makes packaging and closures, wants to make sure that all of them feel welcome in the industry. In the past few years, the company has created a D&I initiative that ensures their employees feel included in and excited about the place where they work.
Getting the ball rolling: The company began by installing a leader to oversee their D&I efforts and combine programming and support into one place. Vice President of Quality and Corporate Social Responsibility Meena Banasiak—a 2020 honoree at the Women MAKE Awards, formerly known as the STEP Ahead Awards—sees her role not only as that of a leader, but as proof of Phoenix’s commitment.
- “I’m part of our progress in terms of D&I at Phoenix,” said Banasiak. “This position I am in was created in order to have someone in the role to establish a framework for corporate social responsibility. This position had never previously existed.”
- “We knew as a business that we were in many ways doing a lot of things that would fall within a D&I program, but without that clear purpose and intention and definitive resources put behind it.”
- “So, in a very visible and important way, I had the opportunity to be in a position of leadership and join the executive staff as a woman of color and set the course for the nature of this work that we
’ve been pursuing.”
Developing programs: The company has created and implemented a range of initiatives that allow employees to connect and contribute.
CSR committee: Phoenix developed an employee resource group that is focused on corporate social responsibility and includes representation from all the company’s operating locations. Employees are encouraged to voice their ideas on the types of programs that could be offered to the workforce, and the group offers tools and resources to help members implement programs at their respective sites.
- “It’s great to have a way to give people that voice, to make the work environment something
- that enables us to feel more included,” said Banasiak. “Yes, we’re here to do good work, but we might just be able to have fun while we’re doing it! We want our employees to feel comfortable bringing their whole selves to work if they want to and develop more profound relationships in the process.”
Parental leave: The company has expanded its parental leave benefits. Today, all full-time employees are eligible for the program, and the benefit applies to the non-birthing parent as well—including in cases of adoption.
- “There are people who have been able to take advantage of it right away—and just hearing their personal story, and their sense of relief knowing they have this support from their company—it’s unfettered relief,” said Banasiak. “It goes a very long way toward cementing the relationship between employer and employee, when you feel like your employer is invested in you.”
Volunteer time off: Phoenix’s full-time employees are encouraged to take up to eight hours of paid time off per calendar year to volunteer with the charitable organization of their choice—either individually, or as part of a team.
- “There have been a few different events where a group of employees have gone together, so it simultaneously serves as a teambuilding exercise with a broader impact,” said Banasiak. “At the same time, we get to share the stories of these experiences and celebrate those organizations that our employees find meaningful to them. Excitement breeds further excitement.”
Pledge for Action: Phoenix was a signatory of the NAM’s Pledge for Action, which committed the manufacturing industry to taking 50,000 tangible actions to increase equity and parity for underrepresented communities, creating 300,000 pathways to job opportunities for Black people and all people of color, and reflecting the diversity of the overall U.S. workforce by 2030.
Starting small: According to Banasiak, it’s important to be sensitive to needs across the entire company, but also to create small forums where employees can feel comfortable discussing issues. By empowering employees to come forward with ideas, a company can unleash the creativity, energy and enthusiasm of a diverse workforce.
Building the habit: “At first you might be in a place that feels more performative rather than substantive, but it’s still a legitimate starting point,” said Banasiak.
- “We never before made an intentional effort to acknowledge Hispanic Heritage Month or Black History Month. By now, our employees are creating and hosting their own events—but before that, our first step was literally a single email to the organization.”
- “I’d argue that first step is every bit as necessary and valid on this journey. Just making that conscious effort—that’s going to be meaningful to someone. It’s necessary to build that habit in small ways to create an environment where ideas start to flow. The motivation builds upon itself, but you have to start somewhere.”
The bottom line: “Results are not instantaneous or something that one person can achieve,” said Banasiak. “It’s about slowly shifting the narrative.”
Manufacturing businesses have long been proponents of equality in the workplace. As legislation to codify protections for LGBT individuals passes through the House of Representatives, the National Association of Manufacturers joined the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Business Roundtable, and other members of the business community in advocating its passage, forging coalitions and providing congressional testimony.
Introduced with bipartisan support in the U.S. House and Senate in March, the Equality Act includes federal protections for individuals based on sexual orientation and gender identity under the existing framework of the Civil Rights Act, which already provides protection against discrimination on the basis of religion, national origin, race, color or sex. The goal of the legislation is to ensure that no person can face legal discrimination based on their gender or sexual orientation, setting a clear federal standard to enable individuals to succeed based on their abilities and qualifications to perform a job.
“Employers understand the importance of creating an environment in which the very best people can succeed based on merit,” Patrick Hedren, NAM vice president, labor, legal and regulatory policy, said. “At the same time, manufacturers know that discrimination in any form is antithetical to the values that we work to uphold every day: equality of opportunity, individual liberty, free enterprise and competitiveness.”
In March, more than 40 other industry associations rallied to support the Equality Act, providing an important boost for the groundbreaking legislation. In the weeks since, manufacturing representatives have testified before the House Education and Labor Committee and signed a coalition letter to the House Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Human Services calling for the Act’s passage. As Congress considers the way forward, manufacturers have made clear that they intend to advocate forcefully on behalf of the legislation and uphold their commitment to workers of every gender identity and sexual orientation.
“The Equality Act creates a clear federal standard that matches the sentiments manufacturers already share: gender identity and sexual orientation have no impact on an employee’s abilities and discrimination is not welcome on the manufacturing floor,” Hedren said. “We look forward to working with Congress as this important legislation moves ahead.”
Washington, D.C. – National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) President and CEO Jay Timmons released the following statement after the Department of Labor (DOL) rescinded the 2016 Persuader Rule:
Manufacturers have fought for this victory for many years in the courts, in Congress and with two administrations, using the full weight of our policy, government relations and legal teams, said Timmons. The NAM’s Manufacturers’ Center for Legal Action was able to halt the rule in court in 2016.And in 2017, the Trump administration, as part of its broader regulatory relief agenda, thankfully began the process of unwinding the rule. This overreaching rule threatened to impose serious burdens on manufacturers and upend employee–employer communications. Now manufacturers are relieved that this threat to workplace communications is finally and officially off the books. Commonsense steps like this to rein in onerous regulations are a major reason why manufacturers are reporting record-high business optimism.
The Manufacturers’ Center for Legal Action (MCLA) is the leading voice of manufacturers in the courts and engages in a range of activities, including direct party litigation and operating a robust amicus program, as well as educating manufacturers about emerging legal trends. The MCLA is led by NAM Senior Vice President and General Counsel Linda Kelly and NAM Vice President of Litigation and Deputy General Counsel Peter Tolsdorf. More information on the MCLA can be found here.
The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) is the largest manufacturing association in the United States, representing small and large manufacturers in every industrial sector and in all 50 states. Manufacturing employs more than 12 million men and women, contributes $2.25 trillion to the U.S. economy annually, has the largest economic impact of any major sector and accounts for more than three-quarters of private-sector research and development. The NAM is the powerful voice of the manufacturing community and the leading advocate for a policy agenda that helps manufacturers compete in the global economy and create jobs across the United States. For more information about the Manufacturers or to follow us on Shopfloor, Twitter and Facebook, please visit www.nam.org.