Saturday, January 29, 2005

More on Workplace Violence

The story continues to evolve at the Toledo Jeep Assembly Plant.

Production scheduled to resume today at site of


With 303 robots and about 1,000 employees building Jeep Libertys at any one
time in 2.1 million square feet, the Toledo North Assembly Plant is a massive
example of some of the latest manufacturing techniques used in the auto

On Wednesday, the plant's 522,500-square-foot body shop was the site of
a violent spree when 54-year-old Myles Meyers shot three co-workers and killed
Production at the Toledo Jeep complex was shut down Wednesday night
and yesterday, but is scheduled to resume today. About 3,800 people work at
Toledo Jeep, which is owned by DaimlerChrysler AG.

Meyers and the three men, one of whom, Roy Thacker of Oregon,
died of his wounds, were among about 125 employees who worked at the plant's
second shift in a shop roughly half the size of Westfield Shoppingtown Franklin
Park. More than two-thirds of the plant's robots are used for welding in the
highly automated body shop.

About 800 Liberty bodies are assembled daily in
the shop, where the process for building the compact sport utility vehicles

Other articles from the Blade have reported that Meyers was arrested in Michigan late last year and charged with the possession of a small amount of marijuana and the possession of a shotgun. The bearing of this news on events remains to be seen; workers at the plant feel the same way:

Body shop workers wrestle with grief


Chuck White knew emotions were running high yesterday morning in the Toledo
North Assembly Plant's body shop

Employees restarted Jeep Liberty production for the first time since
54-year-old Myles Meyers killed a supervisor, shot two other employees, and
killed himself.
A 22-year Toledo Jeep veteran who works on the chassis line,
Mr. White said he could tell by watching the number of Liberty bodies being
built that co-workers at the site of Meyers' Wednesday shooting rampage were
having a hard time.
Usually, the body shop finishes 50 to 60 vehicle bodies
an hour, but yesterday morning they were building about 28, he said.

The reaction was understandable, said Mr. White, who worked with Meyers for
several years a decade ago and was reluctant to return to the plant yesterday.

"I had a hard enough time myself at the other end of the plant," the
Toledoan said after he and other final assembly shop workers were sent home at
lunch because of a lack of painted bodies for them to finish.

"This is like something out of a nightmare."

Spooky and surreal were some of the most common words used by Jeep workers
to describe their return to DaimlerChrysler AG's Toledo North plant.

Second-shift employees were on lunch break when the shootings occurred.
Workers throughout the plant yesterday were briefed about what happened,
given time to ask questions, and urged to accept help from grief counselors at
the plant.

Additional time was spent with workers in the body shop area on the first
shift, causing a shortage of vehicle shells to be finished, prompting the
company to send some workers home early, Chrysler spokesman Ed Saenz said.

Production isn't likely to be at 100 percent on the second shift, either,
he said.

An information session will be held Monday for some body shop workers who
called to say they were not prepared to report to work yesterday, said Dan
Henneman, chairman of United Auto Workers Local 12's Jeep unit.

Both Toledo North, where Libertys are built, and the Jeep Wrangler's
factories on Stickney Avenue and Jeep Parkway were closed by Chrysler on
Thursday to give workers time to grieve and seek counseling.

Workers will be given bereavement pay for Thursday, and more than 100 have
requested counseling, Mr. Henneman said.

Although they don't understand or condone Meyers' actions, some workers are
upset that the repairman who had been at Toledo Jeep for 21 years is being
portrayed by the media and others as a gun-toting drug addict, Mr. Henneman

Meyers was arrested last month in Tecumseh, Mich., for drug possession and
had a shotgun in his car.

Some workers said pressures run high at Toledo North, which started making
Libertys nearly four years ago and has employees working together in teams under
a fellow union member instead of on one job.

Some said union-management relations have been terrible, and they hope
supervisors will change their attitudes.

Many workers have talked about being surprised a violent incident hadn't
occurred before, said Toledoan Kelly Owens, who has worked at Jeep for more than
11 years.

"It's sad that it happened, but nobody's really surprised about it," Ms.
Owens said.

Management's response, besides grief counselers and closing the plant for the day, is to insist that this matter had been resolved amicably, that Meyers did not have to serve a suspension, that everyone parted with smiles and handshakes all around.

That may be the case; but then why did Myers target his immediate supervisors? One of the things that is clear about this incident was that Meyers had three specific people he was looking to shoot, one of whom he killed. Would Meyers take such a drastic action if this dispute were indeed resolved "amicably?"

Ironically, Daimler-Chrysler (DC) and UAW Local 12 were named recipients of an award for labor-management relations by the local Labor-Managment-Citizens Committee (L-M-C) for their negotiations during their last contract (also reported in today's Blade).

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