DETROIT — Ford Motor Co.'s top executives vowed in a Monday email to meet with employees and spark a "deeper dialogue" throughout the company on racism and discrimination following a weekend of nationwide protests over the death of George Floyd.
Executive Chairman Bill Ford and CEO Jim Hackett acknowledged the "pain" felt among the company's African American workers who have been disproportionately affected by systemic racism.
"We cannot turn a blind eye to it or accept some sense of 'order' that's based on oppression," Ford and Hackett wrote. "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."
The email came as protesters marched in cities across the country against police brutality and the May 25 killing of Floyd in Minnesota. Some protests have turned violent, leading to looting at several dealerships, although a Ford spokeswoman said the automaker was not aware of damage to any Ford stores.
On Saturday, General Motors CEO Mary Barra sent a letter to employees advocating for awareness, dialogue and change around injustice.
“I am both impatient and disgusted by the fact that as a nation, we seem to be placated by the passive discussion of ‘why,’” she said. “Let’s stop asking ‘why’ and start asking ‘what.’ What are we going to do?”
As one of the largest global companies, there is a lot GM can do, she said.
Barra said she will commission and chair an inclusion advisory board of internal and external leaders by the end of this quarter. The inclusion advisory board will consult with GM’s senior leadership team, with a long-term goal of inspiring GM to be the most inclusive company in the world, Barra said.
“There comes a time when we are compelled to stop diagnosing what is wrong and start advocating for what is right,” she said.
That means GM also commits to inclusion, condemns intolerance and stands up against injustice, she said.
“This Socrates post may seem more pointed than many of the other topics that I’ve shared. However, in this moment, there is no place for ambiguity,” Barra said.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Mike Manley also spoke out about the "senseless and tragic death" of Floyd.
In a letter to employees, Manley said FCA proudly represents a wide diversity of race, creed and beliefs.
Noting Fiat Chrylser is one of the largest companies in the world, Manley said FCA employees have the individual and collective power to make a difference. This starts, he said, with how employees treat each other at work through creating opportunities for everyone to fulfill their potential.
Manley said: "On behalf of everyone at the company, I emphatically reject the hatred and prejudice that still tears at the fabric of our society and which led to the death of George Floyd and so many before him."
Connecting with leaders
Ford and Hackett said they planned to engage with the company's Ford African Ancestry Network, an employee resource group founded in 1994.
"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," they said in the letter.
The automaker has been outspoken on social justice issues in the past.
In early 2017, the company criticized President Donald Trump's immigration ban from predominately Muslim countries, with then-CEO Mark Fields telling employees the company "will not support any policies that are counter to our values."
Ford and Hackett Monday directed employees to reach out and take advantage of internal resources if they felt "fear and despair." The company is still attempting to navigate the coronavirus pandemic with a majority of its white-collar workers resigned to their homes until July.
"In a time of hardship and upheaval, one thing is for certain," they wrote. "We remain a family and a company that is stronger together and committed to racial and social justice."