Business

Ford letter to employees: ‘We cannot turn a blind eye’ to ‘tragic death’ of George Floyd and America’s systemic racism

Jim Hackett, president and chief executive officer of Ford Motor Co.

Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Ford Motor Executive Chairman Bill Ford and CEO Jim Hackett sent a letter to employees regarding what they called the “tragic killing of George Floyd” as well as the coronavirus pandemic and America’s “systemic racism.”

“There are no easy answers. We are not interested in superficial actions. This is our moment to lead from the front and fully commit to creating the fair, just and inclusive culture that our employees deserve,” Monday’s letter said.

It said Ford leaders throughout the country will hold dialogues with their teams “to understand how people are feeling and discuss how we can get better together.”

“And while we would like to say that racism has no place in our society, we know that systemic racism still exists despite the progress that has been made,” the letter said. “We cannot turn a blind eye to it or accept some sense of ‘order’ that’s based on oppression.”

Bill Ford, Executive Chairman and Chairman of the Board for Ford Motor Company.

Geoff Robins | AFP | Getty Images

The message was sent Monday afternoon before President Donald Trump threatened to bring in the military if states and cities fail to bring an end to protests and riots across the country following Floyd’s death.

Floyd, a 46-year-old unarmed black man, died after a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes during an arrest despite cries that he could not breathe.

Ford joins other companies such as Apple and Snap in addressing employees regarding Floyd’s death. Other companies such as Amazon and Nike have released statements and messages as well with mixed reactions.

Ford Chief Communications Officer Mark Truby said late Monday the letter was sent to all of the automaker’s employees globally and posted on the company’s internal intranets. In an email to CNBC, he said reaction from employees “has been very positive.”

Ford’s message also addressed the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on black communities, citing “the legacy of economic disparities in our own home city of Detroit.”

Michigan, specifically Detroit, was severely impacted by Covid-19. More than two dozen United Auto Workers members with the Detroit automakers have died from the disease.

Here’s a full copy of the message from Hackett and Bill Ford, great-grandson of company founder Henry Ford:

Ford Team,

This is an extraordinary moment in our history. All at once, we are grappling with a public health crisis that has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives, an economic shock that has forced us to adapt on the fly, and social upheaval that has challenging all of us to think and act differently.

In the midst of this, the tragic killing of George Floyd, compounded by other senseless killings over the years, has sparked the expression of decades of collective anger and frustration over the unacceptable abuse of power and authority. This pain is felt across the communities our employees call home.

There is no doubt that the weight of these challenges disproportionately fall on the black community. We have seen this disparity among our own Ford team members affected by COVID-19, and the legacy of economic disparities in our own home city of Detroit. It is pain that many of our team members have long felt in their daily lives.

There are no easy answers. We are not interested in superficial actions. This is our moment to lead from the front and fully commit to creating the fair, just and inclusive culture that our employees deserve.

Ford, and our labor partners, especially the UAW, have shown leadership on diversity and inclusion over the years. Building on this, and the work of the Ford Motor Company Fund in black communities, there is much more we can do together.

Today is the start of an even deeper dialogue within Ford on these critical issues. We will be meeting with employees across the company, including engaging with the Ford African Ancestry Network (FAAN). We also plan to ask leaders throughout the company to hold dialogues with their teams to understand how people are feeling and discuss how we can get better together. We promise to share updates as we continue on this journey. 

We are a company made up of extraordinary people of every race, religion, and background, all worthy of the same dignity. We view our differences as one of our great strengths. We are a team – not in word, but in bond.

And while we would like to say that racism has no place in our society, we know that systemic racism still exists despite the progress that has been made. We cannot turn a blind eye to it or accept some sense of “order” that’s based on oppression. 

Many of us cannot know what it is truly like to be part of a community of color, to know what it is like to be afraid for our children every time they leave the house, or to worry that this day might be our last. But as long as so many of our colleagues, our friends, live with that fear, how can we live with ourselves? As long as we have the privilege to breathe, it’s on all of us to summon new levels of empathy and humanity.

Finally, we want to say to anyone struggling with fear and despair, we have resources that can help. Please visit @FordOnline and see below for more information.

In a time of hardship and upheaval, one thing is for certain: we remain a family and a company that is stronger together and committed to racial and social justice.

Thank you for all you do for Ford Motor Company.

Bill and Jim

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