Ford, UAW launch anti-harassment campaign amid report of toxic culture at 2 Chicago plants
Bruce Hettle of Ford and Jimmy Settles of the UAW.
DETROIT — Ford Motor Co. has begun showing a nearly three-minute video in a constant loop at each of its 24 U.S. manufacturing plants amid a new report detailing decades of systemic sexual harassment at its two Chicago factories.
Bruce Hettle, Ford’s head of manufacturing and labor affairs, appears alongside Jimmy Settles, vice president of the UAW’s Ford department, in the video released Tuesday, the same day The New York Times published an in-depth investigative report on sexual harassment at Ford’s Chicago Assembly and Chicago Stamping plants. A Ford spokeswoman said the video was shot within the last month.
In August, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reached a $10 million settlement with Ford related to sexual and racial harassment allegations at the two plants. A lawsuit by plant employees against Ford is making its way through the courts.
“Harassment and discrimination undermine the very things we stand for: inclusion, diversity and mutual respect,” Settles says in the video. “We are committed to make sure you aren’t subject to that behavior in your workplace.”
Ford, in a statement, said it “does not tolerate sexual harassment or discrimination” and investigates claims throughly.
The automaker said it requires all new hires go through anti-harassment training and has a toll-free phone number to report violations. It reiterated that employees need to disclose romantic relationships with co-workers. Some of the moves were mandated in the settlement with the EEOC.
Additionally, Ford said it has taken a number of steps, beginning two years ago, to curb improper behavior at its Chicago plants. Those actions include more than 20,000 hours of mutual respect training for all employees.
“We are taking the steps necessary to reinforce Ford’s commitment to a work environment free of harassment and discrimination,” the company said.
UAW president responds
UAW President Dennis Williams on Wednesday declined to comment directly on the recent sexual harassment claims in Chicago, citing an ongoing investigation. He said the union has a “zero-tolerance” policy when it comes to such behavior.
“Working men and women have to understand that people ought to be able to go to the workplace without being harassed for any reason whatsoever,” he told reporters during a question-and-answer session at the union’s Detroit headquarters.
Williams added that “several departments” of the union are in the process of launching training to educate and combat sexual harassment in the workplace.
Several female workers in 2014 filed a lawsuit against Ford, saying male co-workers sexually harassed them. In announcing the lawsuit, plaintiff Christie Van said working at the Chicago plant had been “a total nightmare.”
Another plaintiff, Charmella LeViege, said, “It’s not like work; it’s more like a meat market.”
In one instance, a plaintiff said she complained about harassment to plant chairman Coby Millender but that he responded by inviting her to have a romantic lunch with him in his office and to “bring those pretty lips.”
Millender was suspended for two weeks. The UAW at the time filed a grievance over his suspension.