Page 13, 11th November 1938

11th November 1938
Page 13
Page 13, 11th November 1938 — Sunday afternoon I went down to Dagenham.

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Locations: Dearborn, Detroit


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Sunday afternoon I went down to Dagenham.

In the October Christian Front, sober but vigorous American Catholic journal, there is one of the most violent attacks of the Ford system ever written. The attack is made by a Catholic who has been working in the Ford Factory, Detroit, since 1926.

Detroit conditions are, according to the Christian Front, fairly degrading and inhuman. This is a statement attributed to a Detroit Ford worker: " There is no place provided for a worker to sit down at any time. If you want to eat your lunch, you can sit on the floor or on the oily end of machinery, or, in rare cases, on the side of a work bench ...

" The speed-up system is pushed. . In a great number of cases, the men start to work and get their stock ready fifteen or twenty minutes before starting time. . .

" Red" Priests Removed

" The Service Department is under the guidance of a man known as Harry Bennett . . It is Bennett's job to turn blood into gold. He and his Service Department control the actions and utterances of the Republican politicians of Michigan. He also controls the opportunist Democrats ...

" It is said that Harry Bennett controls many ministers of the Gospel. There have been times when Catholic priests have been removed from Dearborn because of their pro-Labour sympathies. One priest in particular was removed because he preached sermons on the Encyclicals. The supposedly non-partisan city officials of Detroit and Dearborn, and other cities of the metropolitan areas, now frown upon this priest: he is listed as a Red ' . .

" Although union organisers are barred from Ford property, fanatical evangelists arc allowed to conduct religious services in the plant. Fraternal societies are of major importance. The Masonic Order predominates . ."

" The Power-drunk Individualist"

Opposition to unions is strong and violent. Many times demonstrations by workers have been forcibly broken up and " it is against the rules for men to gather in groups either before or after working hours, let alone during hours."

Henry Ford himself is described as a power-drunk individualist," and his factory is indicted as " the company which is thoroughly hated by every one of its workers. It is the type of industrial despotism which breeds Communism."

In conclusion, the worker under Ford asks for unions, otherwise "the time is going to come when the workers will refuse to bow under the lash of the Service Department. That day will make the Russian Revolution look like pink-tea."


In Dagenham, it seems, conditions are


Listen to James McCormick, who has worked for Ford Dagenham some years.

" It's not too bad at the Dagenham works. Hours are good : wages are good. Unskilled workers earn from ls. 9d. an hour upwards; skilled workers from 2s. 3d. an hour. You work a five-day week, eight hours a day. It's not too bad.

"Still, you can't help feeling you're in a penitentiary, with foremen and supervisors watching you the whole time, watching every movement. I haven't met a chap yet who wasn't mighty relieved to clock off." A friend of his, also a worker at Ford, agreed vehemently.

" It Didn't Seem So Bad " James McCormick worked in Ford's Detroit factory from 1925 till 1933, before he came to Dagenham. 1 asked him what he thought of the Christian Front article, which 1 had with me.

" Well, it didn't seem so bad as all that. Of course, I was at Detroit during the boom period, when things were fine. Conditions were getting steadily worse when 1 left . . .

"Sometimes you only got 15 minutes for lunch. A trolly used to come round, full of food and bottles of milk. About a hundred men queued up in front of each trolley and you took what you wanted-or what you could get-then sat down anywhere you could and ate as quickly as possible. If the weather was fine we sat outside, but most of the time we used to sit on the floor or on a tool bench, like the man who wrote this article.

"Everything is much freer here than in the States. There are no ex-pugilists as Service Supervisors to see that you don't slack off in one little movement; and you can smoke when you're on Ford property around the workshops, which you can't do in America."

There was much praise for the Ford system of apprenticeship, by which boys are trained without cost in whatever branch of engineering, connected with Ford factories, for which they are best suited.

Might Have Wept

But James McCormick left Ford Dagenham two weeks ago. He works now for a small firm. The hours are much longer but he is considerably more happy, for as he says, " not every movement is supervised, you do not feel hemmed in with rules, and you can talk with the other chaps on the job, so long, of course, as it doesn't interfere with the work you turn out."

I spoke the same afternoon with a priest in whose parish many Ford workers live.

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