Five Ways Ford Has Defined and Pushed the Labor Movement

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A colorized photo of a Ford Model T Plant

This Monday is Labor Day, or as most people say, the end of summer.  The day has become synonymous with cookouts, visiting family, and going to the beach one last time before the leaves begin to fall off the trees.  The important concept to remember is that this day is set aside for the American worker, arguably the most valuable of America’s assets.  As Henry Ford once said “if everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.”  This has been the philosophy at Ford since its conception, to treat their workers with dignity and to provide an honest, living wage for the work they provide.  Ford realized that his company was only as good as his employees and revolutionized not only the automotive industry, but manufacturing in general.  Here are 5 ways Ford has shaped, been shaped, or is shaping the labor movement.

  1. Ford was One of the First Companies in America to Use Profit Sharing

Ford began profit sharing with its employees in 1914 one of the first companies to do so.  Ford printed an article promising the company would give employees profit sharing if sales and production hit 300,000.  By 1915 Sales hit 501,462.  By 1920 sales and production exceeded one million a year.  Wall Street investors criticized Ford, and didn’t think the promise of profit sharing would increase production.  Time has proved Ford right, and profit sharing, stock options, etc. are an integral part of many businesses today.

  1. Ford Introduced 8 Hour Work Days, 5 Day Work Weeks, and High Wages
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A Historic Marker outside of the Highland Park Plant in Michigan

Ford’s plants suffered from high worker turnover.  This meant increased costs in training, and slow,
inexperienced workers.  Ford’s solution was to offer an 8 hour work day and a then unheard of $5 a day (the equivalent of about $120 a day in today’s currency or about $15 an hour).  This made Ford employees some of the best paid employees in America, and rather than a vehicle costing MORE to produce, costs went down as workers stayed at the company longer, worked faster, and became more skilled at their jobs, setting a precedent that continues today.

  1. Henry Ford was Initially against Labor Unions in the Auto Industry

Not all of Ford’s history with workers is entirely positive.  Henry Ford was well known for not supporting labor unions.  In fact Ford was famous for saying management was obligated to take care of their employees, and never saw the need for unionization.  Because of this, Ford was the last of the “Big 3” automakers to unionize, signing the first union agreement in 1941.  Ford’s agreement was more generous than the other automakers, and agreed to pay backed wages to striking autoworkers and those who were shown to have been wrongfully fired.  Ford also paid employee’s union dues and gave them the highest wages in the industry.

  1. Ford Credits Unions as Being Vital to Weathering the 2008 Financial Crisis

In 2008 the auto industry was in dire straits.  The “big 3” automakers were on the verge of collapse, and it looked very much like the end of the US auto industry.  The government intervened and what became known as “the bailout” began, with Chrysler declaring bankruptcy and taking government funds, as well as GM  declaring total bankruptcy and being placed under government control.  Only Ford stood on its own.  William “Bill” Ford (Henry Ford’s great grandson) credited much of Ford’s survival on the United Auto Workers union. Ford said he literally sat down with the union leaders and asked them to “save the company”, and they delivered.  The UAW was able to distribute employees to save jobs and cut back costs and keep Ford afloat.  Ford went on to say, “They saved us in our darkest hour”.

  1. Ford Employs Over 224,000 Employees in over 90 Plants
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Ford’s Dearborn Michigan Truck Assembly Plant

Ford remains one of the largest employers in the United States, offering a high starting wage and benefits.  In some Ford plants, the starting salary is as high as $28 an hour.  In addition to this, Ford has created 15,000 hourly jobs in the US since the 2008 financial crisis, well exceeding the UAW’s goal of having 12,000 new jobs by the end of 2015.

The future looks bright for Ford and their employees.  Ford has a storied (and yes not always positive) history with its employees, and the outlook for the future could not be more positive.  For more information about how to work for Ford, or information on the United Auto Workers Union, please see the links below.

Employment with Ford

United Auto Workers Union

Court Street Ford, located at 558 William Latham Drive, is a multi-year president’s award winning dealership. We have been serving the Kankakee, Bradley, Bourbonnais area for 30 years and counting! We are committed to exceptional customer service. Stop by our dealership, or give us a call at (815) 939-9600. Our knowledgeable sales team and service department will be happy to help and are dedicated to providing the best experience.

About the Author:
nateNathan Frank is an internet sales consultant and the man behind Court Street Ford news since January 2015.  He has been in the car industry for several years and has an extensive knowledge of Ford products and history.
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