Chrysler's Drunk, Stoned Autoworkers Are Back Making Cars

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt

They are back! Two years ago, a group of Chrysler workers were caught were caught drinking and doobing on their lunch break. Not just that, they were caught on camera by a local TV station. The video went viral, and Chrysler was forthwith associated with quality enhanced by booze and marijuana. 13 workers were fired. Yesterday, they got their jobs back, courtesy of Chrysler’s contract with the UAW.

The workers followed a grievance procedure process outlined in the Collective Bargaining Agreement between Chrysler and the United Auto Workers. The matter went to arbitration. Two years later, an arbitrator decided in the workers’ favor, citing “insufficient conclusive evidence to uphold the dismissals.” Apparently, a video wasn’t good enough.

In a statement, Chrysler says it does not agree with the decision. However, the company is “in the tough spot of having to accept the arbitrator’s decision, just as the Union must when the ruling is in the favor of the company.”

The UAW has not commented.

Moral: If you want to drink and smoke dope on your lunch break, the union makes you strong.

Join the conversation
5 of 153 comments
  • GT42R GT42R on Dec 12, 2012

    I've worked in a few different auto assembly plants over the years and seen this sort of activity first hand. On one hand, I can empathize with some of the workers; dead end lives and careers, combined with monotonous labor that lends itself to all sorts of substance abuse to help time pass. I can testify to the fact there are characters operating inside these plants who side-line as distributors (read: dealers) of illicit substances, available to thousands of inside employees. I'll give one specific example (by name because I really didn't care for this particular company). Johnson Controls in Milton, Ontario. We would produce and supply the seats that go into various Toyota and Honda products. There was this middle-aged juice-monkey of a 'Team Leader' in charge of a dozen or so 20-something high-school drop-outs whose only motivation in life was energy drinks and copious amounts of that magic dragon. Anyhow, it took me maybe two weeks to catch onto the fact the 'Team Leader' was in fact a marijuana dealer generously supplying 'his boys' and more. I remember the first time I clued into this; I spotted him walking the [assembly] line, clipboard in hand, appearing to take notes from individuals. Eventually, he reached me and asked if I was interested in 'grabbing anything' through him. I declined his offer to "pick up" marijuana on my behalf, at which point he reminded me he only comes around twice a month, so I better decide quickly. Remainder of my stoner co-workers grabbed off him on the regular though. And 'blazing' in the parking lot before the shift, and of course, over lunch, was common practice and necessary it seemed to 'get you through the day'. Generally speaking, in these environments, the older/more seniority you had, the better drugs got! (read: cocaine)

  • Ronnie Schreiber Ronnie Schreiber on Dec 12, 2012

    I have a friend who worked for Chrysler and had a cushy job driving around the plant in a golf cart. He got caught being on the clock while he was not on the plant's premises. He was fired, the UAW filed a grievance and the net result is that he got a settlement where he was allowed to retire, making him eligible for a buyout, in addition to back pay plus his pension. That's hardly the worst story in the auto industry. Some of you may remember the Vincent Chin case, when a couple of Detroit area autoworkers beat to death a Chinese American in a bar fight. One of the killers was a Chrysler employee who was fired after his conviction for manslaughter. Chin's mother, his sole survivor, won a civil award but couldn't collect anything since the killers had no assets to seize. A friend of mine is an attorney who was asked by Asian American advocates, on behalf of Mrs. Chin, to sue Chrysler so the guy could get his job back. That was the only way the victim's mother could get some compensation. My friend the lawyer told me that at the time of the lawsuit, there were 17 convicted killers on Chrysler's payroll. In 1970, a worker at Chrysler's Eldon Avenue plant in Detroit, disgruntled over being passed passed over for a promotion and angry at a (black) foreman who assigned him to work near the ovens on an already brutally hot day, killed two foremen and another coworker. His attorneys used an insanity defense, claiming racism in the plant contributed to the shooting. The jury acquitted. I don't know what eventually happened to the killer, James Johnson Jr, but I found a news clipping from 1980 that said that he was suing Chrysler. Apparently the state Workers Compensation board awarded him a $10,000+ disability payment, approving his claim that his psychotic breakdown was caused by Chrysler, but they said that his disability was temporary. His lawyer was saying that his client was a paranoid schizophrenic (if that's the case, Chrysler had little to do with his illness) with a permanent disability so Chrysler should continue to pay him. Those of you who are lawyers with access to Lexis are welcome to let use know what came of Johnson's claim.

    • 28-Cars-Later 28-Cars-Later on Dec 12, 2012

      My only thought on your anecdote was this, if my job was hourly and I was caught effectively stealing by remaining on the clock and fired I'd get bupkiss.

  • AJ AJ on Dec 12, 2012

    I read these stories and it makes it so hard to ever buy another UAW built vehicle. That's just insane!

  • DenverMike DenverMike on Dec 13, 2012

    I've worked those assembly jobs and they'll slowly kill your soul. You do form a tight bond with co-workers and yeah, we would 'drink' our lunch everyday. Big deal. The work still got done and we had a lot of fun. I agree with the above comments about the three Martini lunch. Larry Tate would approve!