Ford pursues ‘deeper dialogue’ with employees on racism
Ford Motor Co.'s top executives vowed in a Monday email to meet with employees and spark a "deeper dialogue" throughout the company on racism and discrimination following a weekend of nationwide protests over the death of George Floyd.
Executive Chairman Bill Ford and CEO Jim Hackett acknowledged the "pain" felt among the company's African-American workers who have been disproportionately affected by systemic racism.
"We cannot turn a blind eye to it or accept some sense of 'order' that's based on oppression," Ford and Hackett wrote. "Many of us cannot know what it is truly like to be part of a community of color, to know what it is like to be afraid for our children every time they leave the house, or to worry that this day might be our last. But as long as so many of our colleagues, our friends, live with that fear, how can we live with ourselves? As long as we have the privilege to breathe, it's on all of us to summon new levels of empathy and humanity."
The email came as protesters marched in cities across the country against police brutality and the May 25 killing of Floyd in Minnesota. Some protests have turned violent, leading to looting at several dealerships, although a Ford spokeswoman said the automaker was not aware of damage to any Ford stores.
Ford and Hackett said they planned to engage with the company's Ford African Ancestry Network, an employee resource group founded in 1994.
"We also plan to ask leaders throughout the company to hold dialogues with their teams to understand how people are feeling and discuss how we can get better together," they said in the letter.
The automaker has been outspoken on social justice issues in the past. In early 2017, the company criticized President Donald Trump's immigration ban from predominately Muslim countries, with then-CEO Mark Fields telling employees the company "will not support any policies that are counter to our values."
Ford and Hackett Monday directed employees to reach out and take advantage of internal resources if they felt "fear and despair." The company is still attempting to navigate the coronavirus pandemic with a majority of its white collar workers resigned to their homes until July.
"In a time of hardship and upheaval, one thing is for certain," they wrote. "We remain a family and a company that is stronger together and committed to racial and social justice."
Earlier on Monday, UAW President Rory Gamble—the former head of the union's Ford department and an African American—issued a statement about the crisis. "These are unprecedented times for us all. What we need now is not hard heartedness. Not division," Gamble said in the statement.
"Not looking at our differences but looking at who we are and what we value as Americans. And we are ALL Americans. We are this nation and our differences should be our strength, not our weakness. Not our tragedies.
"This pandemic, terrible as it is, has in my opinion, shown us that we are in this together and we must rely on one another if we are going to navigate in this worldwide crisis. This is a scary time, and fear and prejudice are our enemies."
Michael Martinez is a reporter for Automotive News