Ain't No Party Like a Chrysler Party

Do we really need TV cameras to stop UAW workers from getting buzzed on their lunch breaks?

Last night, Channel 2 News in Detroit busted a group of about half a dozen workers at Chrysler's Jefferson North plant drinking and apparently smoking pot during their lunch break. Reporters Bob Wolchek and Huel Perkins got a little riled up and laid it on a little thick with the judgmentalism, but there’s a problem here, all right.

When it comes to alcohol use, nuances matter. As I wrote before when WDIV made similar discoveries at a Ford plant, "I won't pretend… that I've never ordered a beer with lunch." Business lunches in Europe often feature a glass of wine, which is all very civilized and doesn’t seem to hurt anyone.

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But there’s a difference between drinking a beer or a glass of wine with your midday meal and what these gentlemen are doing. Watch the tape closely and you’ll find that these guys are pounding down 40 ounce and 22 ounce beers — at least one brought along a mini-bottle of something harder — in a half-hour period. (Hey guys, you know that stuff comes in 12 ounce bottles too!)  Add in what looks like pot-smoking and the seeming absence of food (it's common sense; an actual lunch would moderate the effects of the alcohol) and one has to conclude that these guys aren’t just relaxing with a refreshing cold one on their lunch break. This looks a lot like drinking with a purpose.

Apparently, TV-2 got tipped off to this story by co-workers at the Jefferson North plant, who may not have liked the idea of people operating heavy equipment and assembling complex machinery while thoroughly buzzed or worse. Now the question I’d love to see someone at TV-2 ask in terms of follow up is: Did those co-workers take their concerns anywhere else first, and if they did, what was the reaction? Did the union prevent these workers from being disciplined for their reckless behavior before Wolchek showed up with his camera? Is management at Chrysler's Jefferson North plant completely cowed? Do we really need TV cameras to prevent UAW workers from getting buzzed on their lunch breaks? Is the UAW using its authority as worker-representative responsibly?

There’s bending rules and then there’s just plain recklessness. This looks to be on the wrong side of that line. One doesn’t need to be a puritan to say that no employer should be expected to put up with this kind of irresponsibility, and no union should feel obligated to defend workers who make this a habit.