Was there in Mettawa/Lake Forest in 1999 when they moved in the building. This was under the tenured of Wes Clark, Mr. Grainger, Jim Ryan, and others. There WAS a time when Grainger valued employees, family, and work-life-balance. The company was generous with sharing double-digit PST at all levels of the organization (janitor on up). These were the days of 100% tuition reimbursement :)
Grainger has always laid off workers in order to make adjustments to the bottom line to meet shareholder expectations. BUT, Grainger cares a great deal about image and perception so they were always careful to roll out layoffs in phases as to not capture any media attention. Grainger started to become a "different" type of company when the younger leaders started to step up and take over. Grainger hired consultants from Boston Consultant that eventually took over the company bringing several folks from the BCG with them in high level positions (VPs and above). The little men and women were gradually pushed out; moved into roles that didn't match their skillset; and long-time employees bullied out of their hard earned severance dollars when forced out. Shameful.
I hope that the executives and VPs that found displacing long-term employees to be menial are met with the same fate (but I'm sure golden parachutes will cushion their fall).