Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis
Remarks for Secretary Hilda L. Solis
Ford Plant Celebration
Flat Rock, Michigan
Monday, September 10, 2012
Good morning, Ford! I'm so excited to be in Flat Rock today to celebrate an iconic American car company that's committed to American workers.
I want to thank Mark and Jim and the entire Ford management team for making
this commitment to our recovery, the state of Michigan and some of the finest auto workers anywhere in the world. I also want to acknowledge Governor Snyder. And I want to give a special shout-out to my friends at UAW. You not only build the world's best cars, you've built the world's strongest middle class. As Labor Secretary, I will always have your back.
Coming to Michigan today feels like coming home. I was raised in Los Angeles, where cars were a huge part of our culture. My Dad insisted I learn to drive a stick shift. He told me it would make me independent and take me farther. My two brothers always had cars on their minds. They'd tell me all about the coolest and fastest new models.
I wish they could be here today to meet the workers who will make the new Fusion. Talk about saving our environment in style! The Fusion is one hot car.
At the Department of Labor, we know the success of Ford benefits entire communities that depend on the success of the American auto industry. That's why my department has invested in efforts to help incumbent workers gain new skills.
We are proud to support companies like Ford that are committed to "up-skilling" their workers, so they can move along a career pathway and gain more responsibility and higher wages.
This is such a great American success story. Even at the depths of our recession, we knew to bet on the skill and determination of American autoworkers. And now, that bet is paying off.
Today, it's our workers who are making the finest hybrid and plug-in cars in the world. We knew that the cars of the future would be American-made. And, my friends, that future has arrived.
American manufacturing is now in the middle of its strongest 30-month period of job growth since the 1990s. And the American auto industry written off by some a few years ago is experiencing its biggest three-year job growth since 1996.
Companies like Ford continue to invest and add jobs across the U.S. I want to congratulate the workers at Flat Rock Assembly plant on becoming full Ford family members. And I want to commend Ford its commitment to our recovery and for its pledge to add 12,000 jobs and invest $16 billion here in the United States
I saw that Ford manufactured your 350 millionth car last week. Congratulations! You're showing the world that American manufacturing is alive and well, and we can compete and win on a global basis against any competitor.
You're also showing what can be achieved when management and labor work together. Labor-management partnerships have helped drive our auto industry's growth during our recovery. And it's the right kind of economic growth. It's the kind that shows we can compete in tomorrow's global economy without returning to the policies of yesterday.It shows that collaboration is profitable. Industry succeeds when labor sits at the table with management, and ideas are shared.
I think the sentiment was captured by Bob King the President of UAW. Bob said: "The public is looking at us now to see if we've learned anything from the crisis or if we'll return to business as usual." He said: "Our union has learned many lessons from the crisis. The 21st century UAW views management not as the enemy, but as a partner."
This is the right approach. When labor and management play on the same team, they are unbeatable. I've seen this in my own life. Some of my earliest memories were helping my Dad try to get workers and management on the same page. My father was a Teamsters shop steward in a battery recycling plant. When I was a kid, I would sit at our kitchen table and help him translate the workers' grievances from Spanish to English. They wanted safer worker conditions and fair wages and benefits.
When I became Labor Secretary, I had great faith in our manufacturing workers. I know how much you care. Ford management knows its workforce is an enormous asset, with a lot of accumulated wisdom about car-making. Including labor at the table creates a higher-quality product. It creates a more motivated workforce. And it sells more cars.
Every day, Ford management and UAW members work together on joint quality audit teams. They look at ways to reduce waste and ensure high performance. These audits saved the company $250 million annually in warranty costs. This is money that can be used by Ford to hire workers and reinvest in the company.
At a time when out-sourcing continues to be a national concern, I want to thank Ford management for its commitment to in-sourcing jobs to Michigan. The half-billion investment you are making here is not only good business, it's an act of economic patriotism.
So on behalf of the administration, I wanted to come here today in person to say, "Thank you." I can't wait to see the first 2013 Fusion roll off the line here in Flat Rock. Keep up the great work.