DETROIT -- There is something broken at manufacturing plants across the auto industry, and it isn't just the supply chain.
Employee morale has suffered profoundly as industry troubles over the past three years, including staffing shortages, production volatility and recession fears, weigh on the workforce, according to labor leaders and experts.
The issue was brought to the forefront after a fatal shooting in the parking lot of a Forvia plant near Detroit last month, the day after it was reported the company planned to lay off 268 workers. Police say an argument between two employees over tools was the cause of the shooting.
It's impossible to ignore all of the other stressors that may have contributed to the violence, said Waymon Halty, vice president of UAW Local 155, which represents workers at the Forvia plant. It also remains to be seen what long-term impact the incident could have on employees.
"Obviously, with the history of manufacturing, they just need bodies," Halty told Crain's Detroit Business, an affilaite of Automotive News, last week. "We just need a human being to be there, and what a lot of times happens is, we get a lot of people with stress and a lot of people with heartache and a lot of people with hardships and all it takes is a small little spark to flame up something."
Increased stress has pervaded nearly all industries and workplaces over the past three years during the COVID-19 pandemic and its fallout, and it has had a particularly strong impact on Michigan's largest sector, said David Worthams, director of employment policy at the Michigan Manufacturers Association.