Ford Uses Shrinks Instead of Thugs
In the hard-knock days Ford used Harry Bennet and his gang of thugs to control and intimidate. Under the influence of William Clay Ford the company has become more sophisticated. Today Ford uses the Central Diagnostic and Referral Agency.
Union members who are vocal about their rights, who demand the company follow the contract and the union represent them, are put out on a psyche-medical by Labor Relations fiat. I couldn’t believe it, but within a week I heard from three members in three different Ford plants. Their stories are eerily the same. All three members were ordered to undergo a psychological evaluation.
The pattern reveals a policy of harassment. All three members were put on medical by Labor Relations without a doctor’s permission and ordered to undergo a psychological evaluation by a company-appointed psychiatrist before they could return. All three were considered dissidents by union and management. Two had expressed their intentions to run for elective union positions. In each case union officials supported, assisted, and/or instigated the action. None of the three had acted violently or made threats. Here’s how it works.
Ford and the United Auto Workers have a joint committee called Behavioral Emergency and Critical Incident Debriefing [BE/CISD] which includes the union-appointed Employee Support Services Person better known in some companies as EAP. The purpose of the committee is to debrief the victims of traumatic events. The committee is also empowered to handle behavioral emergencies, as when someone acts violently or makes threats. In a diabolical twist of jointness, Ford and the UAW are using the program to silence dissent. Apparently if you don’t believe in the Ford Production System and the mandates of their appointed union officials, you must be crazy.
To minimize the possibility of further harassment, the victims’ names are not used in the following account.
SIX MONTHS OFF
The first person I spoke to is a woman and former committee person with a reputation for fighting back. She doesn’t believe in rolling over and neither the company nor union officials like it. “I talk to men the same way they talk to me,” she says. I talked with her in two phone conversations for more than 60 minutes and I never heard her cuss. But I also had the impression she could go toe to toe with any union tough or company thug.
She’s been out of work more than six months for refusing to knuckle under to their psychological intimidation. The time off hasn’t softened her up one bit. The director of TEAM Inc., contracted by the Central Diagnostic & Referral Agency, tried to finagle her into submitting to the psyche evaluation. She asked why he was willing to compromise the integrity of the Employee Support Services Program by allowing management to use it as a disciplinary tool. She shamed him into writing a note to Labor Relations recommending she be allowed to return to work. Labor Relations ignored the recommendation and put her out of the plant. The local union has done nothing to support her. Indeed they recommend she follow orders and submit.
The second UAW member I spoke with is a middle-aged black man with over 25 years seniority. I interviewed him in person for a good hour. He was easy going, even tempered, and once again didn’t use a cuss word or even refer to his persecutors in derogatory terms. He was calm, articulate, and evidently well educated in unionism. He intended to run for union office.
The day after he expressed disagreement with the local union president at a union meeting he was called into Labor Relations. Naturally he asked for his union rep to be present. With the consent of the union he was put on medical by Labor Relations pending a psychological evaluation. He complied. The psychiatrist found nothing wrong, but he still wasn’t allowed to return to work until the NLRB got involved.
From the NLRB official he learned that his union rep had written a statement asserting that he suffered Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from his experience in Vietnam. He never went to Vietnam. He graduated from high school in 1974. It was three months before he was able to return to work. Then the company restricted his access to most areas of the plant and he was unable to counter the smear campaign staged against him.
The third person I talked with was a middle-aged white man and a skilled tradesman with more than 15 years seniority. Once again, I found he was not the type to resort to abusive language. He too had made known his intention to run for union office. Apparently the only thing he was guilty of was, “I spoke my mind and disturbed the powers that be.”
After repeated incidents of harassment he wrote a letter to Labor Relations expressing his complaint. “I didn’t name names. I simply described the situation.” The next day he was called into Labor Relations and the BE/CISD committee told him that because threats had been made against him they were going to put him out of the plant pending a psychological evaluation.
And Alice thought the Queen of Hearts was nuts.
He went to three company-appointed psychiatrists and one independent psychiatrist and none of them found anything wrong. Despite positive medical recommendations he was not allowed to return to work until he hired an attorney. He was out for three months. His chance of winning a union election had been effectively sabotaged.
This harassment policy doesn’t simply repress dissent, it also discredits the Employee Support Services Program (ESSP). Just as some joint health and safety committees discourage employees from reporting injuries or writing grievances, Ford’s abuse of the joint BE/CISD committee contaminates the credibility of the ESSP and discourages people from getting the help they may need. It’s joint cost containment at the expense of union members’ health. Ford, with the help of its union assistants, has turned the ESSP into an instrument of psychological persecution.
A class action lawsuit against Ford and the union may be in order. But more important, a revolt is in order.
The use of the medical profession as a means of control and intimidation is anti-union, anti-human, and morally repulsive. What next? Electro convulsive shock for dissidents? A thug is a thug, and the henchman can’t hide behind the kinder, gentler face of the glossy and glamorous William Clay Ford.