I am writing this letter in response to your communique issued April 7, 2010. Like you, we too have a vested interest in the continued success of Ford Motor Company that hangs somewhere in the neighborhood of live or die, in terms of our own families’ economic security. In spite of the wretchedness of life on the assembly line, a life freely chosen, a good number of us simply have no other reasonable options. Therefore, we must deal with our collective situation on whatever terms we can accept as a matter of simple family survival.
Reading of your interest in improving our plant’s culture, specifically in regards to the historically antagonistic relationship between hourly workers and salaried personnel, has given me great hope for our collective future. It is true, Dale, we can no longer afford to engage (read lose) in this brutally competitive, capitalistic model of production. It has failed and will continue to fail and ought to fail on its own merits, as a workable system in the production of goods and services in the modern global economy. National and state treasuries are being looted. Whole generations of worker-citizens have been reduced to mere hosts by money-grubbing, parasitic business interests. In short, I agree, gentlemen, a better way- like the one taking form in the states by the new cooperative Mondragon/United Steelworker initiative, is not only possible, but morally imperative, as we move into the future.
If not pursued, we will hasten a return to human slavery- the natural and logical end of this broken and twisted industrial philosophy where sweatshops run roughshod over workers in the hysterical production of cheap goods for impoverished consumers. According to a Daily Mail article, dated April 18th, the National Labour Committee has released photos taken as part of its three-year investigation of the KYE Systems factory in Dongguan, China, which produces electronics for Microsoft, showing mostly women asleep at their work stations- a measure newly introduced to increase productivity. Overloaded jobs performed in fifteen-hour shifts with no bathroom breaks, bad food, and deplorable working conditions have taken their toll. One employee told the NLC:
We are like prisoners. It seems like we live only to work - we do not work to live. We do not live a life, only work.
Only a madman, bent on the destruction of all we hold dear, would dare continue down that ugly and brutal path. After all, Dale- we are Americans… And though we as patriotic citizens still have a long road ahead of us in building and extending that democracy to include every workshop within the continental borders of the United States- we proudly admit both parties have come a long way since those despicable days of Fordism.
I am heartened by the improvements made in the overall health and safety of our workforce. We human beings operate more efficiently in a healthful state- which is all the more reason we strive to maintain safe and healthy workloads now and in the future. We do, however, find it difficult to reconcile the recent increase in line speed (which cumulatively, over time, must lead to repetitive stress injuries, excessive absenteeism and very real mental and physical stress for us hourly folk) with your genuine sentiments of concern. A clarification on that phenomenon would be most helpful, I think.
The quality awards are a glowing affirmation of what we already feel in our hearts and know in our minds- namely, that we at the Kansas City Assembly Plant have always consistently produced some of the finest motor vehicles the world has ever known. The surest path of least resistance to high quality rests in the up-building of morale through the general improvement of working conditions in the factory. Our continued success relies heavily on not only maintaining, but increasing that very high level of morale, which can only be truly sustained long-term by fair and reasonable workloads, a genuine spirit of cooperation between labor and management with good wages, benefits, and working conditions for all. Blow pops and movie tickets and free pizza and certificates for good deeds and pats on the back may work on children, but these weird rewards tend to make me edgy.
I agree with the general thrust that operational costs must be kept to a minimum as we are now in direct industrial competition with global, third-world slave production systems for the manufacturing of motor vehicles, but the recurring sharp focus on hourly sacrifice gives me pause. Your letter states “We are driven to do this by the brutal competition we face from other auto companies.” This seems to paint the picture that Ford Motor Company is somehow a hapless victim of brutal, external market forces rather than the century-old leader of its creation. Very public record based on years of exhaustive, academic research shows Ford Motor Company being the foremost pioneer, developer and champion of the “more-for-less” philosophy in motor vehicle production for over one hundred years.
Workplace efficiency makes logical business sense; however, when concentrated on the over-regimentation of the hourly worker, we begin to see wholesale decreases in decent manufacturing jobs, which are vital not only to our own national economy, by clearing the market of goods, but also to the health and happiness of the American worker-citizen and the future satisfaction of Ford’s own very real business interests- the buying and selling of motor vehicles. Say every company in every city, state, and country across the globe reduces to skeletal manpower in these good manufacturing jobs… With base models hovering around the $25,000 mark, who, pray tell, will be buying a brand new F-150 or Escape in the coming years?
In closing, I hope this little note finds you well. Your prolific updates and “open-door” policy have laid a very solid foundation for the honest exchange of thoughts and ideas in our facility- a quality you and I agree could only lead to our future success. I look forward to your response.
Santino Scalici, Lineworker
Kansas City Assembly
Ford Motor Company
"Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for dinner;
Liberty is a well-armed lamb, contesting the vote." - Benjamin Franklin
"The act of defending any of the cardinal virtues has today all the exhilaration of a vice." -GK Chesterton A Defense of Humilities, The Defendant, 1901