The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Tragedy at a Toledo Jeep plant
– "nobody's really surprised."

Feb 7, 2005

On January 26, Myles Meyers killed a supervisor at Chrysler's Toledo (Ohio) North Assembly Jeep Plant. He wounded another supervisor and a team leader, and then killed himself.

Meyers, who had 21 years' seniority, had been given time off the day before for missing ONE job!

Many Jeep workers echoed the sentiment of one who said, "It's sad that it happened, but nobody's really surprised about it."

Workers told reporters of extreme, unreasonable pressures in the plant. Too much forced overtime. Overly strict attendance rules. Constant elimination of jobs, with the work split up and loaded onto already difficult jobs – then discipline for the smallest errors. A worker said, "I love my job, I get paid well, but the crap you have to put up with is unreal." Others echoed him: "It is like trying to squeeze every drop of blood out." "Weekly, speculation comes up about who's going to go – postal stuff. Who's gonna pop?" "Supervisors that try to overstep their bounds." "They need to rethink their policy about how to handle people."

These statements would be understood at any Chrysler plant – in fact, at most big plants in the country. Since 1980, Chrysler, like other companies, has been on a relentless drive to take away whatever advantages workers had won for themselves in prior years. The mandatory 9-hour day gave way to the mandatory 10-hour day. The 16-minute break shrank to 13 minutes. Contractual work standards ceased to be enforced; more and more and more work was demanded of each worker – while job after job was eliminated. Vacation time and personal days off became less and less available. Attendance programs were changed and changed again, each program harsher than the one before.

This tragedy won't change any of that. The corporation simply tosses two bodies aside and puts two more in.

But the frustration expressed in this act shows how far back workers have let themselves be pushed. Meyers' anger, an anger felt by all these workers, can be put into collective action to get these big companies off our backs. We don't need more tragedies like this one.