This is an interesting case that was settled last month by BMW in the US.
BMW has an assembly plant in Spartanburg, South Carolina, making X series models (X3, X4, X5 & X6) and employing 8,000 workers in a 5 million square foot building. They make over 10,000 X3’s and X5’s a month with about 3-4,000 X4’s and X6’s, so it is a major plant for BMW and their first full manufacturing plant outside Germany.
To support the factory, BMW built a warehouse for parts and components and used a contractor to staff the facility. The contractor had a policy to not employ anyone who had a criminal record within the last 7 years. In 2008, BMW ditched the contractor in favour of a new one and applied their own policy on criminal records – one that didn’t distinguish between a misdemeanour or a full felony charge and was regardless of time – not just the previous 7 years. BMW then required every worker to re-apply for their jobs and applied their stricter policies.
This resulted in 100 workers losing their jobs, however 80 of them were black and many had worked at the facility for over 10 years, so it would be fair to say that they had turned their lives around from a wild youth or had minor offences against their names. In 2013, the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission launched a race case against BMW for discrimination against the black workers. It is this case that BMW has finally settled, 2 years later, for $1.6M and they have to find jobs for the fired workers (if they want to return to the facility).
When I heard about the case, I wondered what happened to the 20 white workers – were they included in the settlement because all the news stories and the Commission’s own website focused on the black workers? Did they also get another job? If not, it seems to me that the US Government should be prosecuted for racially discriminating against the white workers. Current laws rightly demand that everyone is equal, but maybe some workers are more equal than others!
The Commission said that the black workers were disproportionally disqualified from their jobs and that was BMWs fault – not the fault of any other reason such as Government controlled local economies, education, healthcare etc that would have influenced the workers when they were younger, to commit a misdemeanour or a felony. I’m not defending BMW for their change in policy, however the Commission cannot blame BMW for things that happened decades ago and it is widely known that in some communities, living conditions can differ between races resulting in higher numbers of criminal records for some groups.
I think that there are two important points that BMW and the Government should review and make changes to their respective policies:
- The workers at the BMW facility were employed by the contractor, not BMW. I agree that BMW is allowed to have it’s own stricter policies, however both BMW and the contractor should have taken into consideration the existing workers who had to re-apply for their jobs. This doesn’t make sense, they have been working for many years with no issues, so why subject them to this process? The new stricter policy could have (and should have) been applied to new applicants only. BMW did make changes to their policies, however I am not able to find out what those changes were.
- The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission are possibly liable for a race case against themselves if the white workers were not included in the legal case. If they were included, then the case wasn’t based on race and should not have been billed as one. It should have been billed as simply unfair dismissal.
Auto makers have been punching bags for decades from Governments, unions and the media often causing unnecessary issues and even the loss of jobs through demands that were unsustainable. It is interesting, because for the first 40 odd years of the assembly line factories, getting a job was safe, secure and paid very well when compared with other jobs available. In fact, as an example, Henry Ford paid higher than others and wanted the best employees possible which helped his company become a global powerhouse.
What I’m sensing at the moment is that the US Government is attacking non-US makers and being relatively lenient on the Big 3 home grown companies. I feel another post is likely to be spawned from that last comment!