OP-ED: Upholding Our Values and Standing Against Discrimination

General Motors Vice President Operational Excellence Gerald Johnson at the GM Global Headquarters Wednesday, April 12, 2017 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Jeffrey Sauger for General Motors)
General Motors Vice President Operational Excellence Gerald Johnson at the GM Global Headquarters Wednesday, April 12, 2017 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Jeffrey Sauger for General Motors)

By Gerald Johnson, General Motors North America Vice President of Manufacturing & Labor

Recently, the Toledo Blade and other media outlets have reported on racial discrimination issues at Toledo Transmission. I am General Motors’ vice president of North American Manufacturing. The plant in Toledo is under my team’s supervision. I want the city of Toledo and the African American community to know exactly how I feel about this situation personally and professionally, and I want to reaffirm our values as a company and the stand we maintain against discrimination.

I’m outraged that anyone at Toledo Transmission – or any facility – would ever face threats or discrimination. My heart goes out to anyone who was touched by this bigotry. This is not who we are. I and the entire leadership team at GM, condemn – in the strongest possible terms – any type of intimidating or intolerant behavior. If we find that someone has engaged in such discriminatory behavior and violated our no-tolerance policy, we will terminate them. We are proud of the culture of diversity and inclusiveness that we enjoy and we plan to protect it.

From the news reports, I understand some people are questioning how the issues have been dealt with at the plant. Even before the media coverage started, my team had been working aggressively to address these issues since they were reported internally. Here are a few important actions we have taken:

  • We immediately investigated the issues and took action to remove any offensive material.  Sadly, we have not found the culprits in all cases but we continue to investigate. In addition, we have and are taking additional steps to ensure that no such conduct happens again, and that we find those responsible for such acts.
  • We have engaged law enforcement and engaged a handwriting expert.
  • We have also reiterated our strong anti-harassment/anti-discrimination stance to all employees and we are working with outside experts on additional training to reinforce our policies.
  • We have provided additional security, cameras and support to employees expressing concern for their safety.
  • We have stopped production at the plant across all shifts to conduct mandatory anti-discrimination and anti-harassment training for all employees in Toledo.
  • We have rolled out this training across the country in manufacturing and non-manufacturing sites with 50,000 of our people attending in-person sessions in 2018.
  • We reiterated our promise that employees can report any concerns, without fear of retaliation, and we provide multiple ways for them to do so safely and anonymously.
  • Recently, we met with Rev. Jesse Jackson and influential members of the Black, Hispanic and Asian Pacific Congressional Caucuses to discuss ideas to strengthen our diversity and inclusion efforts.

We believe in our workforce. The bad actions of one or a few do NOT represent the people of Toledo Transmission, the surrounding Northwest Ohio community nor GM in total. Every day, 99 percent of GM employees show up to work with a spirit of teamwork, helping one another build great products for our customers. Our company has a strong record of diversity and inclusion – I know this personally as a 38-year employee who has worked in six plants during my career.

Everyone at GM is expected to uphold a set of values that are integral to the fabric of our culture. That culture is predicated on an environment that is safe, open and inclusive. We have zero tolerance for behavior that does not live up to these values.

We believe discrimination is unacceptable – anytime, anyplace. My leadership commitment to our organization is that I will do everything I can to insure these values are maintained and protected. I expect the same commitment from leaders across our business. Together, we can aggressively address these issues and prevent such behavior from ever occurring at our workplaces.

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