Working at Ford took a human toll on employees and their families. It was probably similar to being in prison, although I have never been in prison, so I cannot speak from experience. Employees were dehumanized, regimented, and treated like prisoners. The plant never shut down, 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. Easter, July 4th, Thanksgiving, Christmas were just working days. You made enough money to choke a horse, but it did not make up for the human toll it took on you, your kids, your wife, and your community.
I was told by an hourly man when I started at Ford that “If you stay here long enough, you will end up at Rollmans. Sooner or later every Foreman ends up at Rollmans.” Since I did not know what Rollmans was, it meant nothing to me. But I found out when I almost had a nervous breakdown and ended up at Rollmans, as predicted.
Rollmans was a psychiatric hospital. There was a revolving door for auto workers. You got excellent treatment, and Ford paid for it. So did GM (Norwood Assembly Plant, Fairfield Stamping Plant) as well as Chrysler (Dayton Radiator Plant). Strangely enough, Rollmans closed after all the auto plants mismanaged themselves out of business. The last days of Rollman’s Psychiatric Hospital coinsided with the last days of Ford’s Batavia Transmission Plant.
First Ford’s Fairfax Transmission Plant bit the dust. That was followed by GMs Fairfield Stamping Plant. Rollmans laid off staff. Then GM shut down the Norwood Assembly Plant, and local hospitals recruited doctors from Rollmans. Ford cut the Sharonville Transmission Plant from 5400 employees to 1800, and announced that the Batavia Transmission Plant would be closed. That is when Rollmans announced that it would close the hospital and sell off the land to a developer. Without the hordes of employees from the auto industry, Rollmans had lost so much business it could no longer operate. The land where Rollmans was located is now called the Rollman Estate, and has $500,000 mcmansions sitting where auto workers used to recover from the punishment of working at Ford.
Working conditions at Ford were best summarized to me by a Jew. He had a tatoo number on his forearm from being in a Nazi concentration camp. He was one of the lucky ones that was still alive when the Russians liberated Auschwitz. One day he came to me and asked me if I knew what the difference was between being in a concentration camp and working at Ford. I was all ears. He said three things: At Ford they don’t throw you in ovens, and you can leave anytime you want. You get paid. You are not starving. Other than that, there is no difference. You are treated the same as the SS treated people in the death camps.
So what effect did working at Ford have on people? Family breakdown, divorce, drug abuse, alcoholism. I never knew a General Foreman or Superintendent who had not been divorced at least once. Ron R. was on his fifth wife. He was 37. Everyone of the older General Foreman in Zone 3 had at least one stress induced heart attack. One woman who worked for me had been married to three of the same men in my department, was currently getting divorced from her four husband, and was living with a man who had been divorced twice, from another department.
But the kids suffered the most. They essentially had no fathers. No role models. Lots of money, though. Their parents tried to buy them off with things to make up for never being there for them.
But the most notable casualty of working conditions that I saw was the man who lived in a make believe world, doing what the little green men told him to do. The little green men rode on torque converters. No one else ever saw the little green men. Just him. Sometimes he would laugh hysterically, pointing at a torque converter, and, evidently, the little green man sitting on it that had told a funny.
But the day the little green men told him to pull down his coveralls, lay on the floor and masturbate was the most memorable. Men stopped their machines to bet on how many times he could masturbate. He laughed hysterically as he laid on the floor, doing what the little green men told him to do. It took about 20 minutes for the men from Rollman’s to arrive. They sedated him and hauled him to the hospital. Everyone went back to work. In a month he returned to his job. After a stint at Rollmans he did not see the little green men for a month or so. But then they would visit again. His face was intent, as he listened carefully to what they wanted him to do. Nobody paid any attention, unless he did something bizarre. It was just another day at the Sharonville Transmission Plant.