The #MeToo movement is helping break down a culture of “sex, swagger, suspicion, and racial resentment” within factories.
Thanks to the #MeToo movement, sexual harassment has come to the forefront of the national conversation and given the world a glimpse at how prevalent it is in just about every industry—white collar and blue collar alike. Until now, it wasn’t clear just how bad it was within the halls of auto factories or behind the closed doors of corporate offices, but a recent New York Times piece outlined how the practice has persisted—even today—at two Ford plants in Chicago. The accounts, unfortunately, are flat out horrifying.
Not only were female workers subjected to groping, crude comments, and punishment for not exchanging sexual favors for better assignments, but they were reprimanded for bringing these incidents up to supervisors or the media. In response to the story, Ford CEO Jim Hackett has gone on record apologizing for the company’s mishandling of these incidents and promised to work harder to enforce a zero-tolerance policy. “I want to take this opportunity to say that I am sorry for any instance where a colleague was subjected to harassment or discriminatory conduct,” said Hackett in a letter. “On behalf myself and the employees of Ford Motor Company, who condemn such behavior and regret any harassment as much as I do, I apologize.”
Apologies, however, are simply not enough. "More importantly, I promise that we will learn from this and we will do better,” added the CEO. In order to crack down on sexual harassment at factories, Hackett has promised to fire employees that engage in harassment and protect workers who report it from retaliation. In one case, a female worker had her pay docked after a supervisor saw that she had joined a past harassment lawsuit against the company. It hasn’t been made clear how Ford will go about stamping out its culture of complacency, especially when the automaker has faced suits in the past for the same reason and apparently still has changes to make, but hopefully that strategy will emerge as this period of reckoning continues.