By Jakob Stein
Management at the Ford Kansas City Assembly Plant has been using safety protocols, especially those around COVID-19, as a pretext to retaliate against workers whom they have personal issues with.
The general attitude of management with regard to these ‘violations’ has been guilty until proven innocent, with workers being punished for not wearing masks when they were in fact wearing them, or if the masks slipped down a worker’s face in the course of working. The penalty for such infractions is severe—for the first offense, it is a three-day suspension, for multiple offenses it can carry a 30-day penalty.
These punishments are especially serious for temporary workers, who are already in a precarious position since they could be terminated any day, because a 30-day suspension means that these workers will lose their seniority and consequently be easier to fire.
These safety protocols, which are supposed to protect workers, are being weaponized to make them fear retaliation for basic practices such as work-to-rule (doing what is required by job descriptions, following protocols, and not exceeding quotas or expectations) or attempting to unionize.
As one worker at the Kansas City plant explained to Tribune: “At the end of the day it’s just a war of attrition against the worker. ‘What can we get you in trouble for to get you out of here? Because now you’re getting top pay, or now you’re costing the company more money. How can we find these rules and regulations that benefit us but don’t benefit you?’ And safety falls under that universally—in union and non-union companies. Because one, it’s the easiest to enforce, and it’s the hardest to argue against.”
The worker continued, saying, “Even here, the standards… the safety standards are just an illusion that makes it look like it protects us, but really it’s just an enforcement tactic to keep them working.”
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