Ford Long Beach Assembly Plant The Work Place - Introduction

As seen in the history of the Ford Motor Company and in the account of industrial architecture designed by Albert Kahn, Ford stayed far ahead of others in the industry in regard to fair treatment of his labor and in healthy and pleasant conditions of work. Published works on the Ford Company give this ample space and it calls for no further documentation here. Long Beach started up with a state-of-the-art healthy, safe and pleasant work place, and it was constantly altered and updated to match its updated product and the machinery introduced to produce it. The building featured natural light, forced ventilation, 14 general rest rooms with showers and lockers for employees, and an outside terrace for lunch hours. Since it had no hot lamps on the assembly line, it provided a cool and comfortable atmosphere in which to work. The main parking lot held over 700 cars and the one under the Helm Bridge after 1947 provided additional covered spaces. This feature reminds us that the workers could afford to own automobiles. The Long Beach Plant like other Ford plants offered them preferential prices and purchase plans if they wanted a Ford.

Recently an elderly informant recalled that in the early years Ford's no-nonsense personality was stamped all over plant policy. Pay was handed out in cash, no women were permitted on the plant floor, and only single women were allowed to work in the office. Ford didn't like people sitting around on the job. All the desks for the production engineers and the supervisors were at stand up heights.

In 1926, nearly four years prior to the opening at Long Beach, Detroit announced that as of September 25 all Ford plants would operate on a basis of a five-day week. The action followed experiments in various departments made earlier that year. Working an eight-hour day, the employee's wage would be raised to a minimum of $5 a day with Saturdays and Sundays off, well above average for the industry. It was common in the Ford plants and elsewhere during these hard years with no unions to protect them, that men were subjected to a system of favoritism. Friends of the foremen sometimes worked every week; others got no work. The workers were further aggravated by shutdowns without warning and by a total disregard for seniority in discharges. Men were fired from seniority jobs and later hired back at minimum pay. Speed-ups on the assembly line were used to get more work out of the men. Ford employees could hardly complain, however, as Ford had made a temporary effort to keep wages high and he maintained his special regard for handicapped and for blacks. Although much of this data on depression practices and events is taken from national sources, it is unlikely that Long Beach was any different. The industry was ripe for union organization. As for hiring of blacks, Detroit's plants were famous (infamous to some) not only for hiring blacks but for placing them in supervisory positions. No documentation of blacks at Long Beach shows up until some pictures of blacks appear at the work place in the 1940s.