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Like others in ND, Rugby employees work hard

By Sue Sitter - | Sep 12, 2020

Sue Sitter/PCT A welder works on a dump truck body at Rugby Manufacturing.

An Aug. 31 survey by financial firm Wallet Hub named North Dakota the nation’s hardest working state and employees at some of Pierce County’s top employers agree with the title.

City of Rugby Public Works employee Greg Boucher has worked at the city’s water plant for 21 years. He said keeping residents supplied with clean water means hard work and long hours.

“We’re here at the plant at 6 a.m. and leave at 5 p.m. This is seven days a week,” he said.

“You need to be here,” Boucher explained. “If there’s a water main broken, you can’t just leave it. Sometimes, I get a call at midnight.”

Sometimes his calls come in when the outside temperature sinks to 20 below. You have to fix (water system problems). We work with public works, street and sewer department. We all pitch in,” he said. “Lots of teamwork here.”

Sue Sitter/PCT Heart of America Medical Center employees enjoy a socially-distanced outdoor picnic.

Dale Klein was recently hired to help Boucher and eventually take over the job managing the plant when Boucher retires. He said working at the city water plant is hard work, but he enjoys it.

At Rugby’s second-largest employer, workers also say they enjoy their jobs.

Rugby Manufacturing’s General Manager Jeff Duchscher said North Dakota’s title is “something our state should take a lot of pride in. One thing we have is a unique experience as we work with companies all across the country. We have manufacturing or sister companies we work with as well.”

“Being a little biased, I tend to agree the entire Upper Midwest in general tends to be hard working. That’s no shame on anybody else, but other people throughout the country, there’s a lot of credit to the Upper Midwest,” Duchscher said. “The hard work side is one thing, but the quality and craftsmanship that comes out of this part of the country falls into that as well.”

Duchscher said he notices work ethics in his employees often extend to their lives outside of Rugby Manufacturing. “There are a lot of people in the agricultural sector. Most people work during the day and spend the evenings on the farm, whether it’s their own family farm or they’re just helping somebody out, maybe a neighbor,” he noted.

Sue Sitter/PCT City of Rugby public works employees Dale Klein (left) and Greg Boucher pose in front of their truck outside the city water plant.

Christ Cote, who works as a welder for Rugby Manufacturing, says he’s been putting in 58 hours a week lately.

“They have scheduled 48 hours a week, then we have people putting in additional hours on top of that,” Cote said of his co-workers.

“A lot of us put extra hours in because we live outside of our means,” Cote said with a laugh. “We need money.”

Cote said he enjoyed the hard work. When he heard about North Dakota’s rank as the nation’s hardest working state, he said he wasn’t surprised.

Material handler Leon Nelson said, “I’ve been putting in 48 hour weeks. I’ve been here since ’03.”

Nelson said he’s worked installing fiber optic cables in other parts of the country and agrees with North Dakota’s reputation as home to hard-working employees. He said he helps on his wife’s family farm when he’s away from work.

Nelson and Cote said Rugby Manufacturing employees rely on each other for help.

“There’s lots of team work. Hard work. Everybody jumps in to help,” Nelson said.

“As far as helping out and everything, we’ve got people from each department jumping in to help out and fill in for spots,” Cote added.

Duchscher said, “We have a couple of employees who’ve been here 40-plus years, and a lot of our workforce has been here 15-20 years, and we’re looking for more of those types of people. So, we’re looking to hire more.”

Duchscher said Rugby Manufacturing’s employees have been on mandatory overtime since sales rebounded in the summer after a slump in the spring caused by a global pandemic.

“Sales have bounced back really well and our July order intake and August order intake are the highest July and August in the history of the company,” Duchscher added. “So, it’s been a quick bounce back from where things fell of in the spring, but because of that they’ve been on mandatory overtime for most weeks of the year. Probably 35-40 weeks of the year, they’re on mandatory overtime, and the other part of the year, they have voluntary overtime on top of that.”

Duchscher added, “In manufacturing in this part of the country, to some extent, we’re at a disadvantage because of our location, material availability, supply chain logistics, our freight in and freight out is more expensive, but at the end of the day, we overcome that with the hard work and quality craftsmanship of the employees here that our customers are willing to pay a little extra to get the product from this part of the country.”

“Generally speaking, the efficiency and quality of the product we build, we can be competitive even with our location,” Duchscher noted. We can overcome those freight disadvantages.”

“Hard working is a unique perspective term, but for us, it’s the quality aspect,” Duchscher said. “It’s not just the hard work, but the care and quality they put into the product they build and ship every day.”

At Pierce County’s largest employer Heart of America Medical Center, employees gathered recently at an outdoor, socially-distanced picnic.

Employees expressed little surprise at North Dakota’s top spot among hard working states, and like employees at other Rugby workplaces, they spoke about the importance of quality and teamwork.

“Everybody works together,” said surgical nurse and compliance officer Laura Boucher. “They work hard. The patients mean a lot to everybody and they want to make sure that they provide the best care for the patients.”

“We’re hard workers here,” admissions supervisor Renee Selensky agreed. “I put in a lot of hours. Weekends, holidays, nights, evenings – I do it all. We put a lot of pride in our work. I enjoy working at HAMC,” Selensky added.

Hospital pharmacist Jesse Rue said he has seen many hard-working people in North Dakota and in Rugby. “I have great appreciation for the work ethic of the people in the Midwest, North Dakota and certainly people at HAMC.”

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