Update: Ford has contacted us to provide some clarification in relation to this story, offering a point-by-point outline of the steps being taken to reform and punish bad actors at its Chicago plants, and put an end to the alleged sexual harassment and gender discrimination occurring there. You can read Ford’s statement here. Some of the language in this article has also been revised to reflect the fact that Ford is making a serious effort.
In August, news broke that Ford Motor Company would pay out $10.1 million to settle a lawsuit claiming rampant sexual harassment at its Chicago Assembly and Chicago Stamping plants, while the full details of the allegations were largely kept quiet. But on Tuesday, The New York Times published a comprehensive account framed by the self-reported experiences of some of the victims at both plants, and the picture painted therein is a disheartening one.
According to the accounts of a dozen women from Ford’s Chicago plants, they were subjected to crude comments, groping, intimidation, indecent exposure, and even being coerced into engaging in sexual acts. Just as bad, the New York Times piece suggests that the women had little or no recourse as male colleagues and union leadership refused to help.
“For all the good that was supposed to come out of what happened to us, it seems like Ford did nothing,” plant worker Sharon Dunn said of the latest sexual harassment suit against Ford. “If I had that choice today, I wouldn’t say a damn word.”
Ms. Dunn was involved in an earlier string of lawsuits against Ford alleging sexual misconduct at the Chicago plants, back in the 1990s. Then, Ford settled for $22 million and vowed to crack down on the bad actors at those factories, and while it seemed to do a lot of good for a time, victims say that an oppressive and hostile work environment re-emerged with time. Some of the accused offenders were never properly investigated, victims say, and many kept their jobs. This stands in stark contrast to the maelstrom rocking America’s politicians and entertainment industry, where already, powerful men have been punished for their alleged misdeeds.
From the Times piece:
After the #MeToo movement opened a global floodgate of accounts of mistreatment, a former Chicago worker proposed a new campaign: “#WhatAboutUs.”
Reading the women’s accounts, it’s hard not to fixate on what the helplessness of so many female Ford workers in Chicago suggests about American society: that being female, blue-collar, and black – as so many of them are – can be risk factors for being left out of social justice movements.
You can read the condemnatory piece from The New York Times here.