Some of them hate me, and some of them thank me. I am talking about the response from Local 863 of the United Auto Workers. Since the articles in the Cincinnati Enquirer and local radio talk shows, I have gotten a definite response from the UAW at the Sharonville Plant, which is what the book is about. But that response has been polar opposites.
The response from current workers in the UAW has been extremely negative. They see my book as an attack on them. Which is strange, since most of them were, I am guessing here, 10 years old when I worked at Sharonville. Are all UAW people as insecure and defensive as the workers at the Sharonville Transmission Plant? Are they so fearful of the mess that they have helped create that they want to silence anyone who writes the truth about how they built the cars that destroyed Detroit?
Look, my book is about yesterday. It is not about today. I certainly have no bone to pick with the workers at the plant today, since I left Ford 30 years ago. So who cares what happened 30 years ago? Everybody should care, because that is when they created the begining of the downfall of the Big 3 by producing junk for 20 years. The cars that were produced by Detroit in the 70s and 80s had historically bad quality. By historically bad I am talking about 33 states passing legislation to create “Lemon Laws” to protect car buyers. I am talking about people that were killed and injured by defective cars. I am talking about the largest recall in automotive history. I am talking about the intervention of President Reagan to save Ford from bankruptcy because they could not withstand the recall of 23,000,000 Fords for defective transmissions.
But there is another, more important thing that I am talking about. A thing that DOES impact today’s auto workers. That thing is two small, weak, insignificant, inexperienced foreign auto companies called Toyota and Honda that came to the U.S. and took the market from the mightiest industrial empire on earth: the U.S. auto industry. How did they do it? They didn’t do it. The American car buying public did it.
I can remember when Ford, GM, and Chrysler dealerships were bloated with inventory that no one wanted. I can remember salesmen milling around, smoking cigarettes, watching cars go by, hoping that someone, anyone, would come in to buy a car. At that same time period, VW dealers were mere order takers, had no inventory, and you had to go on a two month wait to purchase a VW coming from Germany. Quit whining, Detroit. You did it to yourself. You destroyed the faith and trust that had been built up for a half century in American made products. You drove American car buyers to foreign competitors. YOU created the competition that has destroyed GM and Chrysler and is now nipping at the heels of Ford. My book is about how you, and, yes, me, built the cars that lost the global auto war.
So what has been the UAW response to my book? Lets take the haters first. I have received emails calling me a traitor and questioning my parentage. A UAW 863 guy came into my retail store, purchased a copy of A Savage Factory, opened to the first page, wrote “From 863”, spit in the book, told my clerks that I had “better watch my back because a lot of people are out to get me” and walked out. I received an email from a woman who worked for me almost 35 years ago. She was highly upset. She called me a liar. She was referring to the incident in the book where a female Ford employee had a side business of turning tricks in her RV in the parking lot. I answered that I was NOT talking about her. I was talking about a whorehouse on Ford property silently supported by management and had nothing to do with her. She had nothing to do with the mobile whorehouse, nor did she have anything to do with the whiskey and beer serving bar set up behind storage racks, and again, silently supported by management, which got appropriate kickbacks.
Now lets talk about some positive responses. To date I have sold more than 200 books to former Ford workers, now retired, who worked under the conditions that I describe in A Savage Factory. Some of those books, a fair number, were purchased by children of Ford workers, at the suggestion of their fathers, who wanted them to try and understand why they had never been good fathers. Why they were never home, because of the incredible overtime requirements, and when they were home they were exhausted, had no time for wife or kids, and were ready to bite their heads off if anyone disturbed them. No soccer game attendance, no PTA meetings, no playing ball with the kids. Just trudging off to Ford with churning stomachs and balled up fists, waiting for the never ending battle at the Sharonville Transmission Plant. Sure, they brought home fat paychecks. And they tried to buy things to substitute for not being a good father. But things are no substitute. One woman, in her 80s, husband deceased, thanked me for writing the book, because, for the first time, she understood how Ford had changed the man she married into a monster.