LAMONI, Iowa — Rick Bland started working for Hy-Vee when he was 16 years old. Thirty-three years later, he has been a produce manager at different locations across the state, held a position at corporate, and even worked beside his family in Centerville and Lamoni.
On March 6, 2020 that changed.
“The new regional director came up to me and said I need to park the jack and come inside he needed to talk to me,” said Bland. “Went down to the office and the meat manager was there and him … He said he couldn’t keep us both and with Hy-Vee’s restructuring they were going to get rid of the produce managers in the small stores.”
Bland’s career with Hy-Vee was over. His health insurance ended, which covers his wife and their three adult children. He was paid two weeks severance.
On Feb. 18, Hy-Vee announced their ‘local stores would be making changes to become more efficient while continuing to elevate our customers’ experience.’ The changes included promotions, reallocations, which for some employees meant demotions, and layoffs.
On March 11, Channel 13 contacted Hy-Vee Communications with an on-camera interview request, which was denied. But the company provided several statements. On March 13, Hy-Vee Communications agreed to an on-the-record phone call to further explain its restructuring process.
In a statement Hy-Vee said:
“We have reduced our employee base by a little more than 1% across eight states since our Feb. 18 announcement that changes would be occurring at our company.”
In March, the Iowa Workforce Development announced Hy-Vee would be laying off 368 employees at its fulfillment center in Urbandale. Later, Hy-Vee also announced that five of its metro Market Grille restaurants would convert to Wahlburgers, where more layoffs would occur.
When asked about specific layoff numbers for Iowa, Senior Vice President of Communications Tina Potthoff said in a phone call she could not release those numbers because it is proprietary information. She also said the company is financially healthy and that this decision will help to better serve its customers.
When Bland worked for corporate as a brand sales representative, his position was eliminated in seven months, but he was given the opportunity to be reabsorbed into the company.
“We were all let go at that time three years ago, and given a couple of weeks to figure out if we could find another job within Hy-Vee, and thankfully by the grace of God, the guy who was here was leaving and I was able to step right in the produce manager job [in Lamoni]” said Bland.
During his transition, Bland was able to keep his health insurance and senior status during the rollover period. When he was fired on March 6, he was not given that opportunity.
“I had five weeks vacation. We all have six holidays and three regular flex days. You know we’re salary,” said Bland.
Potthoff said in a statement:
“He was told to contact our Chariton distribution center so he could be placed in a position at that location; however, he never made any calls to follow up. This is unfortunate for both us and Mr. Bland.”
Bland says that day he was given a phone number to call, but he was told he needed to apply for a position, which was over an hour away from his home. Potthoff said in a phone call that he would have been allowed to keep his time served but could not confirm if he would have been able to keep his salary or benefits.
Several former Hy-Vee employees told Channel 13 that when they were laid off, they were told they could apply for positions at the Chariton Distribution Center or similar locations, but would not be able to keep their benefits, salary or time served.
Potthoff says all layoffs related to its February announcement are over and the company will be working through the changes in its stores over the upcoming weeks.
Bland is still looking for a job.