Ford Long Beach Assembly Plant The Organization
Administrative officers and the number of departments at Long Beach at the beginning were basic. The initial officers consisted of: manager, assistant manager, chief clerk, superintendent, general foreman, chief inspector, stock superintendent, general stock foreman, service stock foreman, body foreman, chassis foreman, maintenance and repair foreman, and factory service foreman. Until 1947 some confusion existed as to whether foremen were in the administrative "class" or belonged to the workers. After World War II as the factory approached its high water mark of activity the departments included: parts, paint, final inspection, quality control, chassis, repair, maintenance, boiler room, body, trim, dock, pilers, enamel, parts control, production control, manufacturing engineering and engineering standards, work standards, electrical, plant engineering, traffic, service stock, accounting, the "Up Front" supervisors and office staff, and plant security.
The first employees came from the Los Angeles Plant, some 700 of them, and these were added to by the local labor pool and with supervisory personnel from older plants. Many workers transferred to this plant from the east as the years went by. Until the advent of Henry Ford II as President of the Company in 1945 working up from lowly positions to the top was the system employed. Employees moved from one Ford plant to another gaining experience before coming in at top supervisory levels. For example, one Charles Thomson began as a freight hustler on the Long Beach dock, spent some time in Dearborn, returned to be an Inspector, was laid off during the Depression in 1932, returned as a freight handler, worked in defense plants during the war, and returned to work his way back up in inspection and to be chief inspector. He finally was appointed plant superintendent. Still, working up the ladder right at Long Beach persisted as demonstrated by George Gregson. In 1950 the union president recommended that he take a test for a new job of "Layout Inspector," a man required to check parts for Ford's West Coast Purchasing program. Gregson studied for two weeks at night, passed a test, and was inspector for a month and then promoted to foreman of Layout Receiving Inspection.
Henry Ford 11 in 1945 simply caught up with other big corporations when he hired promising college graduates and trained them for administrative positions. He also brought together seasoned, but young men for top positions known as the "Tex" Thornton group. A new foreman plan was announced in 1947, a plan to define them as administrators and to improve their training. The 1941 Ford United Auto Workers (UAW) agreement had reduced foreman abuses and in doing so had reduced their powers. In 1947 Henry Ford II made them salaried employees. They got special parking places and from then on were considered part of the management.
At Long Beach the plant also ran a service school for mechanics working at Ford. It was located in back of the main gate garage.
After publication of the Ford Motor Company organ, the Long Beach News in 1946, promotions, service awards with pictures of employees, and congratulatory stories covered many of its pages. Labor also gained recognition and cash awards for contributing suggestions for plant and production improvement, not major breakthroughs as these came from the laboratories in Detroit. Long Beach had a Work Standards Department where an effort was made to improve techniques and simplify work. There, employee suggestions were evaluated and judged.
The Long Beach Plant was essentially one work place. Unlike the Rouge plant where raw materials had to be processed and the several units of the work force rarely intermixed, Long Beach men were in constant interaction. Assembly, stock, dock and even office help were essentially at work in one building. Although the majority of the assembly and stock jobs did not require a specialized skill, they did require a high degree of manual dexterity and a mechanical aptitude for handling tools and machines. The smaller number of semi-skilled and skilled classifications of work did require a good knowledge of the job. Some of the many classified jobs requiring experience and background of specialists were: metal finishers, acetylene and gas welders, spray painters, cushion builders, automobile trim men, power lift truck operators, inspectors, machinists, millwrights, and steamfitters. No job could be classified as unsafe.
No employee who was working at the plant in 1957, when the assembly building and offices were flooded up to four feet and a fire from floating fuel oil raged through the building, will ever forget the sense of camaraderie that took over. Six Ford retirees signed a letter on Labor Day in 1990 in which they wrote,
"A memorable example of TEAMWORK for all time saw line workers, maintenance crews, salary and office staff including secretaries led by Plant Manager Bob Armour, in 3 eight-hour shifts, day and night, in a battle to save their plant and their jobs! A battle which they won and will never forget, with the lines back in production in two weeks."
"On this Labor Day we are proud with hundreds of others in this area, to have been a part of that team at "THE BEACH." We submit this tribute in memory of the men who made those early days at Long Beach so special; memories which will remain with us even as the last beautiful brick is pulverized at 700 HENRY FORD AVENUE."
As for health care, Ford again watched out for his employees. He had a physician on call at the local Seaside Hospital where medical attention was available to employees 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Later, the company newspaper carried a monthly column by the doctor, "From the Doctor's Desk." The plant sold safety shoes on the site, but it was not until after the company was unionized that medical and hospital plans were offered...normal for the industry. Henry Ford prohibited smoking in his plants, a practice which ended shortly before his death in 1947 at the command of Henry Ford II. In 1954 the workers had their own blood bank.
FIRST AID ROOM, INTERIOR-OFFICE BUILDING/ ASSEMBLY BUILDING