As the state of Texas braced for what would be the worst natural disaster in the state’s history, employee safety concerns were paramount for Levi Strauss & Co.
About 70 employees from four Houston stores were ultimately impacted by Hurricane Harvey, including several who had to be physically rescued from their homes or vehicles, and at least eight to date who suffered major property loss. Today, all employees have been accounted for, thanks to the coordination of key teams across the company and the work of Steve Nelson, district manager for Levi’s® stores in Texas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana.
Before knowing the path the storm would take, the team identified eight stores around Houston and the Louisiana border that were at high risk. Once the hurricane hit, it was all hands on deck. The teams made daily calls to assess the status of employees and their safety. The HR call center and LS&Co.’s Red Tab Foundation (RTF)– designed to aid employees in need when emergencies hit – worked together to ensure that retirees of the company were safe and cared for.
“There was a ‘no man left behind’ kind of mentality that I was impressed with,” Steve said. “Luckily we were able to track everyone down.”
One of the last and most distressing rescues involved one Levi’s® employee, a young stylist and his parents, one of whom recently suffered a stroke. As the flood waters rose, the family found themselves trapped in their own home, seeking refuge on the second floor. What’s worse – none of them knew how to swim. With a backlog of thousands waiting to be rescued, the situation was tenuous at best. Thankfully, the employee and his family were saved.
“From the moment they hit the boat, they were well on their way to safety,” Steve said. “I’ve worked for other companies during these types of catastrophes and I’ve never seen anyone so proactive about employee safety.”
Those employees affected by Harvey were provided everything from shelter in local hotels to toiletries, food and medical assistance as needed thanks to the support of the company and the RTF. Primarily staffed with college students and other young adults, many of the store employees were unaware of the emergency financial services offered to current and former employees through the foundation, Nelson said. When RTF responded quickly with support, Steve said the response was “disbelief.”
“It’s been an incredibly proud moment for me to share what our company has done,” Steve said. “Each person in our management chain was amazed. None of us have ever experienced this kind of support while working for other companies.”
While the storm has passed, the work is far from done. LS&Co. employees have pulled together to support relief efforts, from backpack drives to taking advantage of a 2:1 donation match. The Levi Strauss Foundation also made immediate donations to the Red Cross of Greater Houston and the Coalition for the Homeless in Houston. RTF will also continue to stand by, supporting employees and retirees as they rebuild in the coming months.