Rouge: Ford cars or no spot in the lot
The truck factory, which hosts tours, is the automaker's only plant to set rule for workers.
Bryce G. Hoffman / The Detroit News
About Dearborn Truck
Product: Ford F-150 pickup
Employees: 2,600 hourly; 200 salaried
Notable facts: Features a "living roof" with grass and is open to public tours
View the sign:http://cmsimg.detnews.com/apps/pbcsi...Q=100&MaxW=500
DEARBORN -- Plant manager Rob Webber delivered a blunt message to workers at Ford Motor Co.'s Dearborn Truck factory this week: If you work at Ford, you better drive a Ford. Otherwise, park across the street and walk.
The new policy at Dearborn Truck, the modern centerpiece of the famed Rouge industrial complex and the site of popular factory tours, comes as Ford officials have been exhorting workers to rally behind the automaker's massive turnaround effort.
Losing money and sales in North America, Ford on Monday announced plans to close as many as 14 plants and cut up to 30,000 blue-collar workers.
"It was something this plant manager took upon himself. It's not a companywide policy," said Ford spokeswoman Anne Marie Gattari, adding that Ford supported the decision, which was made in con*****tion with local union leaders.
Beginning next Wednesday, only vehicles manufactured by Ford or one of its subsidiaries can be parked on the plant site. Employees in non-Ford vehicles can still park in the employee lot across Miller Road and walk to the factory, Gattari said.
'Everybody's in this together'
Jerry Sullivan, president of United Auto Workers Local 600, which represents some 2,600 workers at the plant, said both the union and the company wanted to get people's attention.
"Everybody's in this together. (We need) to buy the products we make and support the company," Sullivan said. "This is a good place to start."
The UAW has a history of banning vehicles manufactured by Asian and European automakers from union hall parking lots -- particularly during recessionary periods.
But Harley Shaiken, a labor expert at the University of California-Berkeley, said this is the first time he has ever heard of either the union or an auto company moving to ban all competing products.
"When imports were banned, the notion was that you were supporting other autoworkers around the country," he said. "These are very troubled times. Autoworkers in general, and at Ford in particular, want to protect their own jobs."
Shaiken said he would not be surprised to see similar actions taken at other Big Three plants. General Motors Corp.'s Warren Technical Center has separate lots for non-GM vehicles.
Non-Ford cars defaced
In recent years, the UAW has put handbills on non-Ford vehicles -- and even on some vehicles made by Ford's Volvo, Land Rover and Jaguar units -- that were parked at the company's world headquarters in Dearborn.
Land Rover, Volvo and other foreign vehicles also have been vandalized while parked at the automaker's Dearborn operations.
The new ban at Ford's Dearborn Truck plant applies to both salaried and hourly workers with permits to park on site. About 15 percent of the 2,800 employees who work at Dearborn Truck have such permits.
The decision to bar non-Ford products from the plant site was announced during a town hall meeting at the factory convened to discuss the automaker's latest restructuring plan. "The place erupted in applause," Gattari said.
Workers differ on ban
But not everyone was clapping.
"They can't tell you how to spend your money," said one veteran skilled tradesman who did not wish to be identified out of fear of retaliation. "It's still a free country."
He drives vehicles manufactured by DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler Group because he can get a better deal on them. "I gotta go where I can get the most bang for my buck," the worker said.
Now, he plans to borrow a Ford vehicle before the ban goes into effect.
Other workers said they see the logic behind the ban.
"You buy what you build," said Dearborn Truck worker Rufus McWilliams. "That only makes sense."
While Dearborn Truck is the only Ford facility to impose such a ban so far, workers at some other plants said they would welcome similar rules.
The Dearborn Truck plant opened in 2004 as Ford was celebrating its 100-year anniversary. It was build as part of a $2 billion renovation of the Rouge facility and is considered a model of manufacturing efficiency, flexibility and environmentally friendly technology.
About 150,000 people a year visit the factory on tours operated by The Henry Ford museum.