December 21, 2017 7:51 AM   Subscribe

How Tough Is It to Change a Culture of Harassment? Ask Women at Ford. In August, Ford announced it would pay up to $10.1 million to settle a racial- and sexual-harassment investigation at two Chicago plants. More than a dozen women have now came forward to detail accounts of harassment, racism, groping, intimidation and coerced sex by coworkers and supervisors. The bigger picture: blue collar women of color like those who work at Ford's factories aren't getting the same attention at white celebrities, but they face similar harassment and assault at work. After the #MeToo movement opened a global floodgate of accounts of mistreatment, a former Chicago worker proposed a new campaign for unseen women: “#WhatAboutUs.”

Ford has issued a response to the New York Times story. They also launched a national campaign this past Tuesday to run indefinitely on video monitors in all 24 of their domestic factories.

This is not the first time they promised to change conditions at those plants in Chicago. In the 1990s, a string of lawsuits and an EEOC investigation resulted in a $22 million settlement and a commitment by Ford to crack down. In 2000, a settlement of $9 million was distributed to more than 100 women who worked at Ford's Chicago factories. The improvements were short lived. By 2015, half of the complaints filed with the EEOC regarding Ford operations came from their Chicago plants.

#WhatAboutUs on Twitter
posted by zarq (8 comments total) 33 users marked this as a favorite

This article was both really, really good and really, really infuriating.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:53 AM on December 21, 2017 [5 favorites]

* Didn't put a content warning in the post because a lengthy description of what the story was about was included above the fold. The content is not graphic, but it is disturbing and absolutely infuriating.
* Please keep in mind that as with all posts related to these subjects on MeFi, this thread is for everyone here to participate in and be treated respectfully. Thank you.
posted by zarq at 7:58 AM on December 21, 2017

Ford's "response" is just a generic boilerplate thing about how they don't tolerate harassment and will investigate thoroughly. At this point it's indistinguishable from anyone else's response, not surprisingly.
posted by Slinga at 8:24 AM on December 21, 2017

That video reminds me of GM's Howie Makem, the Quality Cat, i.e. a symbolic-at-best "solution" to a serious problem. Maybe they could steal the idea and have Donut Gropem the Harassment Hedgehog roam around the plant?
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:47 AM on December 21, 2017 [9 favorites]

I listened to this story on The Daily this morning. It made me so furious. Honestly, the extent to which no one bad ever gets what's coming to them is at this point so demoralizing, since there are so many bad people doing so many bad things, that I'm just emotionally wrecked. And I've got all the White cis het male privilege anyone could ask for.

And then yesterday the NYTimes reinstates Glenn Thrush by basically papering over the concerns of millenial reporters and completely ignoring one of the most damaging and destructive parts of his pattern of action, his spreading rumors about women who he had pressured for sex and who had turned him down.

posted by OmieWise at 9:15 AM on December 21, 2017 [6 favorites]

I don't know what to say to this, but I feel like I should say something. It's infuriating.

It's more infuriating because the abusers are nameless and numerous, and no one is calling for their heads. But they're all specific men who deserved, at the very least, to lose their jobs.

But they're not men with fans who are defending them. In the plant, they probably have friends and supporters, but outside no one cares because they're not on the celebrity hierarchy. You can't leverage public outcry against them, to get them ousted.

Some women at the plants say the union, whose leadership is mostly male, often met their calls for help with hostility, resistance or inaction.

I'm struggling to think of what we, as people reading this article can do. I know that I'm committed to stand up for women. Maybe one thing I'll do is contact my union and see what their policies are for handling cases where a union member is accused of sexual assault or harassment.

That seems like a real, concrete place to start. Maybe members of other unions can check as well.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 11:36 AM on December 21, 2017 [8 favorites]

In my admittedly-limited time as a factory worker and union member in my younger days, my greatest frustration was the utter lack of interest that they had in "soft" issues like harassment. The guys I worked with were unabashedly racist, misogynistic, and homophobic. I and one other guy that started the same day were the youngest and were college students, and so they perceived us right away as the "other" and treated us accordingly. They left stuff in my locker, drew slurs (in permanent ink) on my work-issued and only pair of coveralls, made horrible comments, and generally made life miserable. And they succeeded: I hated that fucking job so much.

The other guy quit within 3 weeks. The first month or so I tried to just ignore stuff but when it got bad enough I brought it to the supervisor. He was wholly uninterested in helping and told me that management would be even less so, because these guys had high seniority and the "Contract" didn't have any hook to correct it. He said they'd grieve any discipline, and it would stir up trouble, so I should learn to take a joke better and leave it alone.

I was the definition of privilege: a (lower-)middle-class (but still middle class), white, educated, cis male. Though at a different business, my dad was in the same union. If they felt so free to harass me, I can't imagine how they treated women and minority workers.

I'm grateful for the economic benefits unions provided for my dad and my family, but I still get upset thinking of my experience being part of one.
posted by AgentRocket at 12:35 PM on December 21, 2017 [5 favorites]

I'm grateful for the economic benefits unions provided for my dad and my family, but I still get upset thinking of my experience being part of one.

I'm pretty supportive of unions in theory. But when people describe to me their experiences with unions (as union members or as management interacting with unions, or other interactions with unions) my support stays firmly theoretical. Personally I think any advocacy of union rights should be coupled with discussions as to how to make unions better; because in practice they don't seem so great.

I understand their historical importance, but for their future importance I think some rethinking of what unions look like and how they operate is imperative.

In an ideal world unions would be in a leadership position on issues of racism and sexual harassment. It does not appear as if we live in this ideal world.
posted by el io at 2:17 PM on December 21, 2017 [4 favorites]

« Older Jingle Rock Bell   |   "So anyway, here's Wonderwall." Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments