Quorum325 is a webpage for autoworkers of UAW local 325.
Editor: Dennis Gallie
FPS on the Motor Line
During the last several months ( August, September, October, 2002), the Company has tried to "roll out" FPS on the Motor Line and other areas,  with the idea that whatever is accepted here will be started in the rest of the plant. Group Leader jobs (with a 50 cents per hour premium) have been bid on and awarded, and they have replaced both the QA's and the old Group Leaders.  Alternate Group Leaders have been elected by the work groups, and the leaders are asking for volunteer candidates for the other "FPS jobs" such as Recorder and Visual Factory.

Some serious problems have come up,  and have been ignored or brushed aside by the Company and the Group Leaders.

The most serious problem in the FPS process on the Motor Line is a toal lack of diversity in the awarding of jobs and privilges on the day-shift. The three new day-shift Group Leaders are all middle-aged white males. They were chosen by a new award process which involves input from both the Union and the Company.  (This process was agreed to by the Local and the company last December,  but not discussed or voted on at any Union meeting).  Now we come to the Alternate Group Leaders. It was specifically brought up at our group meeting:  Why not rotate the Alternate job among the members of the group? This was rejected by a member of Management as not cost-effective, because the Alternate had to get a week's training, and there wasn't enough money. At first the FPS leadership told the new Group Leaders that they  could just choose one of their friends to be their Alternates. But after this was tried, there was naturally a lot of objections, so at the next meeting, our Group Leader  began by handing out ballots  and announcing that it was decided that we would vote for the Alternate. There was no discussion, about how the vote would be conducted, and why voting was the best way to proceed. After all, the Alternate might naturally be moved up to Group Leader some day, with that 50 cents per hour pay boost, and the privilege of being off of any particular line job most of the time. It was a secret ballot  for the first vote,  but then there were some disagreements as to who was eligible to vote (settled by the Supervisors), and then the vote turned out to be a tie between two members of the group. To break the tie, there was a run-off election between the two members, but instead of a secret ballot, they had somebody come down the line and ask you who you wanted to vote for, and he wrote it down. The end result: all three Alternate Group Leaders are middle-aged white males. Now, legally speaking, what are the chances of picking a total of six white middle-aged males out of a diverse Motor Line population, women and men, young and old, African-American and white, Hispanic and Anglo?  

This is a surprising result for the FPS system, which Ford advertises as "empowering" the average worker. The average worker is more interested in fairness, security, and equal treatment, than in competition and moving up the chain-of-command. This new system seems to be more about creating a "pecking-order", than about empowering everybody on the Motor Line. Ford is using the FPS system to discriminate. The Company is asking us to help them do what it cannot legally do by itself.  It is re-vitalizing the same "good-old-boy" system of favoritism and corruption which has always been promoted at Ford, and which we have fought against, through union struggle and lawsuits from "target groups".
The brave women of the Chicago plant who brought a lawsuit against Ford's sexual harrassment are responsible for the anti-harrassment training that we have received. That training taught us that there would be no more pressure on "target group" individuals to try and get the "perks and priledges" that may be offered by the Company.

The second problem which has come up on the Motor Line is: If we help the company document the mistakes of co-workers, are we not getting into the discipline process?  If one of our group punches into the computer a tally of the repairs or red-lights that can be charged to a particular co-worker, are we not setting the stage for  public embarrassment or even discipline? This question has come up many times at our meetings, and the only answer from management has been: "This is for Quality purposes only". Whatever.

The third problem is: How do we  fairly distribute the time you can get off the line to do FPS work? The answer so far is to sign up for one of the "FPS jobs" and wait patiently. But if it works like it did in the past, you might have to wait a long time, based on:
    1) what your group leader or foreman thinks of you, or
    2) whether your group is getting more time off the line than another group, or
    3) if you are willing to do something which shows your co-workers in a bad light.
It has come up several times in our meetings that there aren't enough "FPS jobs" for everybody in the group, and  some people will lose out. The answer is always like "That hasn't been worked out yet." or "Some people don't want an FPS job." It has specifically been brought up: Why not equalize time-off-the-line on a rotating basis, with every group member being offered some time in turn? This was rejected as impractical.  Management's latest answer, at our October 9, 2002 meeting, was: "It just doesn't work that way."

So, what can we do at this point? Most of us will probably ride it out, not participate, get bored at the meetings, etc. Some will go after some of that time-off-the-line, or self-promotion, maybe getting burned or burned out. Others will promote themselves, or get promoted, maybe giving more of their body and soul than they really have.

But there is a more democratic solution. There is nothing specific in our collective labor contract which says how much we have to give away in this FPS process. This is decided at Union meetings over at the Union hall. We can discuss and decide what we are willing to keep or give away, as a total group of organized workers,  not as a tiny competing work group, or as a competing individual being manipulated by the Company. The Union meeting is the highest body of the Local. Union meetings are held on the Wednesday before the third Friday of every month one half hour after the end of the shift (end of Tuesday's shift for night-shift).  The next Meeting is Wednesday, Oct 16, 2002 for day-shift, or Tuesday, Oct 15, 2002 for night-shift.