IT Employment

Drinking on the job: Firings at Chrysler

Thirteen auto workers are fired from Chrysler after a news station catches them on tape drinking during their lunch hours. Is this behavior more common than we think?

Chrysler fired 13 workers after Detroit's WJBK-TV aired footage of them drinking beer and apparently smoking dope during their unpaid lunch breaks (over a period of ten days). (You can click here to view the video.)

This is one of those situations where you wonder how common this behavior is if these guys were so easily caught on tape. (Note that they were caught despite employing the pinnacle of stealth, the brown paper bag. Seriously, a brown paper bag? If they'd been passing around a fifth of Jim Beam it couldn't have been as obvious.)

A couple of other things to think about:

  • Detroit currently has a sickening rate of unemployment, yet these 13 people were able to secure jobs.
  • Chrysler was the recent recipient of a government bail-out. (Good to know that there's little accountability going on until there's a news camera around.) Now the company will probably start doing mandatory drug testing for all employees.
  • Despite Chrysler's claim that every line position has a backup person, what can we come to expect from the finished product? A cork screw in place of a gear shift?

So what do you think? Is imbibing during work hours a fairly common activity?

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

162 comments
AllFiredUp
AllFiredUp

The factory (Jefferson North) where these 13 worked is now building the NEW 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee. This model has the engineering and design quality to be the BEST Chrysler product in decades and prove the company might actually be viable! So the last thing you'd want is a few sloshed workers doing a sloppy job assembling these $40k+ vehicles!!! Now if they were building the rental-fleet-fodder models like the Chrysler Sebring, Dodge Avenger or Dodge Caliber....who cares? It's not as if they could be any worse than they already are!

drowningnotwaving
drowningnotwaving

http://www.amazon.com/Rivethead-Tales-Assembly-Ben-Hamper/dp/0446394009 - with apologies to anyone who has referenced this already. It has gone on, and will continue to go on, as long as smart people are locked into sheyit jobs. That companies discipline and react is their want. That people are surprised and shocked is lunacy. Who is more dangerous - the guy on the line putting his arm in the machine, or the exec on drink and drugs negotiating the outcomes of 5,000 employees? Both, perhaps, is the answer. I don't kn0w, I just ask.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

that the guys driving the brewery horse-carts would have a case (the old-fashioned 50-bottle cases) of Porter sitting between them... liquid lunchbox as it were, as a standard perk. You couldn't measure blood alcohol on those guys even after five beers, they had such a capacity for dealing with the stuff. Long gone, those days. Nowadays even breweries don't usually allow staff to sample during work hours. Unless they're being paid to, of course.

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

have worked on the factory floor? Gods, but manufacturing is mind-numbing work, deathly difficult to go into day after day year after year, without losing joy in life. I wonder, frankly, that there's not a whole lot more of this kind of thing going on that cameras haven't captured. I further wonder that in the pursuit of convenience, we allow and encourage minds to be so wasted (via jobs on the factory floor).

LvTravel
LvTravel

I looked at the video and read just a couple of responses but I am appalled at this for any company!!! I have been a supervisor in the past and will say that if there is anything going on at the top then that is bad but to mention that if it is then the workers can do this too!!! Where is the respondsiblility for an individuals actions. These people are making good money at this company and there are many that would joyfully take the job since being without!! So in other words an old saying "if they jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge they will follow!! Give me a break. I am thrilled that someone reported this and had this break wide open--Good for them. People who need and want to keep their jobs need to be respondsible for their own actions and not like children--"well if they can do it so can I". Get a life. I have friends out of jobs due to this economy. Now that this has been revealed they can look to all corners of the company and eliminate those who don't apparently care of need their jobs.

blueberry606
blueberry606

Apperntly you goody too-shoes have never worked in a factory or drank a 22 OZ or 40 OZ. All high and mighty are ya. Other countries dont have a cold one at lunch, why not us? Self righteous bunch of turds. Those men had famil;ies. A reporter had nothing better than to do a report on a couple of workers? OH they were union? Maybe if computer geeks had unions they wouldnt be terminated all the time. I was a union member. They provide a livin wage. A man can support a family. Hows "The international Union of Computer Information Technology Workers" Sound? IUCITW

dphopkins
dphopkins

There used to be a Chrysler plant here and when I was younger a friends apartment backed up to the Chrysler parking lot. There are some SERIOUS alcoholics that worked for Chrysler, a group of 5 or 6 people would drink anywhere from 3-5 cases during the lunch break. They would be out every night. We would make sure we were not leaving or going back to their apartment during shift change due to the fear of a DUI hitting us.

fred64
fred64

These guys had a few beers on their 30 minute lunch break. By the time they got to their cars, got to the beer store, drove to the park and had to drive back to work, they had less than 10 or 15 minutes to drink. There is no indication or breathalyzer or blood test to conclude they were intoxicated. Aside from the pot ( a misdemeanor in Michigan)nothing illegal happened. They is also no indication they were impaired on the job. Chrysler management and union take great care to make sure workers on the line are not impaired and doing their job. They have been building great cars and trucks for nearly a century and their plants today are among the most automatic in the world. Filled with computers, robots, sensors and quality check stations at every step its pretty much impossible for a bad job (operation) to go undetected. When was the last time anyone has heard of an assembly issue affecting product quality from Chrysler or any of the high volume automakers? Parts or design issues yes, but the level of automation in a high volume assembly plant has pretty much eliminated assembly issues. In fact on of the greatest contributions Chrysler made to Mercedes, was Chrysler manufacturing engineering process. Mercedes, like most low volume producers was plagued with a high volume of repairs required before their vehicles could leave the plants. Customers never saw those problems, but the expense of making sure was not insignificant. For high volume plants that level of repair/rework would be devastating, so those manufacturers had to devise more effective manufacturing, automation, processes and technology. Chrysler is among the world leaders in assembly technologies and innovation. Part of those systems assure every step is completed and meets quality and safety standards for each vehicle with records kept for each. The 2000 people Chrysler employs at the Jefferson plant are unfairly treated by this dubious news story. As is the company and the products they build.

jmarkovic32
jmarkovic32

Those poor saps must have thought that they were government workers! They aren't there yet. The Union Bosses still have a little more work to do.

dkidd23
dkidd23

I think it is more common than you realize. Before getting into IT I worked in manufacturing. At one place where I worked second shift, most of the crew on our line smoked pot during the lunch break. At my last job, I knew one of the employees in manufacturing who smoked pot before work, at lunch and right before he drove off the premises. Never had a problem or safety issue from him. Another employee was drinking on the job and was fired due to his ineptness almost causing a serious accident. When I was younger, I worked in restaurants and that is where I first witnessed cocaine use and there were a lot of drinkers there as well. It was common for several of the kitchen staff and wait staff to do toots or drink after closing. One waitress was a serious alcoholic. She would come to work with a Big Gulp cup that had vodka and ice in it. She still functioned but is now paralyzed from an accident she had while driving. I used to live in South Texas and would go across the border. One time, we were driving by the Coca Cola plant at lunch time and a wagon drawn by horses was pulled up to the plant and on the back was a hogshead of beer dispensing beer to the employees. I stopped and inquired about it. I was told the company (Coca Cola) provided the beer for the employees but limited it to 2 beers. As someone else mentioned I have seen too many times to count where upper management keeps liquor and/or wine in their office or imbibes at lunch. However, let one of the staff be caught drinking and they would be fired. Perhaps Chrysler should do as Coca Cola does in Mexico and provide the beer but limit its use? I think the employees should have been reprimanded and not fired. As open as the drinking and smoking was in the video, it is obvious that it was passively condoned by management. Their supervisor should be fired for not doing their duty.

TrueDinosaur
TrueDinosaur

In Italy the company lunchroom had beer and wine. And many times the wine buyer or the company owner would bring a bottle or 2 of good wine for the table to share. We in the US have this 'problem' with alcohol at lunch. Europe does not.

mikifinaz1
mikifinaz1

Drinking with coworkers is never, ever a good idea and anyone who tries to encourage it is suspect. Most people don't think that this may be a "test" given by employers, and yes they do, and yes it can have major career impact. Just like bad facebook pictures, rumors about drinking can haunt a career like any other questionable behavior. Finally, there are small places that actually encourage this type of behavior and if I see this my next task is to find another job.

maclovin
maclovin

....how many people still have a few drinks on lunch. The acceptability depends on the job. Manufacturing.....hell no. Period. Someone said "it's not the 60s".... I don't know what that means....because it still goes on, and it widely accepted. It is simply about good judgement. One (maybe two for those that can handle it) on lunch isn't that bad of a thing....if you can handle yourself and not let your work degrade. Anyone that doesn't see the "big bosses" with any form of liquor/drinks in their office...doesn't know the BIG BOSS that well or hasn't been in their office. Don't give the impression of knowing something you don't know. That globe in there may just open from the top to reveal multiple bottles! XD "C-Level Bosses" have lunch "meetings". Now, have you ever been to one? Have you ever seen the bill from one? I have, multiple times. You have to ask yourself, "why are they going somewhere out for a lunch meeting when we have this expensive (and expansive) meeting room/area?" DRINKS! :D Should it wait until after the day, yes....but ah well. If you want the "privilege" (if you can call it that) of being able to have one or two drinks on work, then study up and get a an office job! It depends on the job. Dangerous machinery and alcohol don't mix. Period. Ask people that have been killed by drunk drivers...wait, you can't. Harsh, but true. May they rest in peace.

cettech
cettech

From my experience working at EDS in the 1990's (which was a subsidiary of GM at the time), I saw this behavior all the time from GM staff. The ironic thing was that we employees of EDS weren't able to drink at all but the GM workers who were in a position to possibly kill someone due to their impairment were not prohibited.

howard48906
howard48906

I have a friend who works in a liquor store downtown. I once asked him what size bottle was sold most often. He replied the "tiny dogs"; the airplane size single shots. It seems that office workers will often stop in for a soda, sandwich or burrito, cigaretes and a couple of shots for lunch. I shouldn't be surprised because most of the people who work downtown work for the state.

BIG CHRONO
BIG CHRONO

Everything happens during work hours, on, & off worksites. Sex, drugs, booze, smokes, shakedowns, depraved indifferences, etc. It happens in every field, private/public sectors. There are no per- manent solutions across the boards. The USA has devolved into CRAPISTAN.

jhogue
jhogue

Chrysler was put on the spot and smeared for a few employees. The main point is why did the journalist not call the police if they witnessed drunk driving ? The risk of fatalities should have been more important than a hatchet job on Chrysler.

dduffy
dduffy

Go to any area where there is a court house, and you see judges and attorneys having a "drink" at lunch. There used to be a thing called a martini lunch. I am not in favor of an intoxicated worker, but why such the fuss. Just do not come back to work impaired!

yattwood
yattwood

Even scarier: employees who operate huge, powerful machines, hauling anything from propane to industrial solvents to nuclear waste....My first job was working for A Large Eastern Railroad That Has Since Been Divided By Norfolk Southern And CSX. I worked as a clerk in the freight yards, and the trainmasters and yardmasters were constantly checking for alcohol. One night, I had been weighing hoppers containing iron ore pellets, and I had to take the waybills to the crew in the first locomotive (they were going to Bethelehem Steel) - I climbed up into the locomotive, and it was evident some drinking had been going on (I suppose, thinking about it now, I probably should have said something to the yardmaster, but for some reason I didn't) People are concerned about nuclear power plants - they should be as concerned about what the trains rolling through their neighborhoods are carrying!

res0kcge
res0kcge

I worked at a GM plant 20 years ago; the same thing was happening there, then. This is not new. It is not 'right' either.

JohnMcGrew
JohnMcGrew

...and as a taxpayer/owner I wasn't paying for what I saw in the video, I wouldn't care. But alas, that wasn't the case. I loved what the corporate spokeshole said about the quality of these people's work, stating that even if they were inebriated on the job, their process was such that any mistakes they may have made would not affect the product. If that's the case, it sounds like Chrysler still has way more people than it needs.

tvman
tvman

This is what unions have helped create if you drink or do drugs you need time off and treatment and the corporation foots the bill. If you get caught sleeping on the job... Wonder why a car cost $40K+?

mdtallon
mdtallon

Just a reality check. Does anyone out there think I don't have a right to expect a higher level of accountability (that is to say, a reasonably clear head) from the person piloting my plane than from the person selling me my ticket? From the surgeon cutting into my chest than from the orderly emptying my bedpan? From the worker tightening the bolt on the steering column of my new car than from the exec deciding what's the best way to market the latest bulgemobile? Certainly anything that alters a person's brain affects physical and decisionmaking performance, but let's not go comparing a slingshot to a AK47.

davebrik99
davebrik99

I worked at Chrysler for 7 years after 30 years elsewhere. They are (were) part or the fornmer "Big Three" The "Union" has become corrupt in that they protect the deadbeats to the disadvantage of everyone else. The work ethic coming out of the big cities just reflects the demographics and the decline in moral levels follows that of society in general in the last 40 years. That being said, the pressures of production and the mediocrity of management would cause just about anybody to WANT to drink. Chrysler is just a NAME nowadays. They have been beat up by Daimler, Cerberus Capital Management, and now the government and they still blindly vote for bailouts...

lbrent1
lbrent1

There is a big difference between having A drink and being drunk. One drink does not impair a person legally, so why is this a fireable offense? They are not driving or flying people so I don't think it's a problem. Companies do not have any business interferring with an employee's lifestyle.

leo8888
leo8888

I've seen comments about having drinks at lunch. Personally the most I have ever had was one drink at lunch. Usually when meeting friends that I don't see to often. I wouldn't feel right going back to work after more than one drink. I can wait until after work for that.

Dr_Zinj
Dr_Zinj

1. drinking beer 2. apparently smoking dope 3. unpaid lunch breaks My first question is if these are union employees, how come they don't have paid, scheduled lunch breaks? Are they expected to eat and work at the same time or are they expected to go 8 hours without a break? Second question is were any of these workers physically and mentally impaired from the alcohol or cannibis? How much beer did each of them consume? One beer for an adult male is not going to result in impaired judgement or motor skills. Just setting aside the fact that marijuana is still illegal at the federal level, there is a lot of evidence that alcohol is much more impairing that a joint. I used to work in an automotive maintenance shop and we consistently put in mega overtime. We also usually got to break an hour early once a month and have a beer bash. We footed the bill for beer (and sodas for the non-drinkers) as well as the chips and sandwiches (the powers felt that it was better for everyone if we had moderators and not drinking on empty stomachs). Nobody ever drove home drunk, or played around with the equipment and injured anyone. I've also been to numerous luncheons where a beer or glass of wine came with the dinner; and then went back to work. It comes down to knowing your limits and having personal responsibility.

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

[i]It has gone on, and will continue to go on, as long as smart people are locked into sheyit jobs.[/i] Minds resent numbing down.

brian.catt
brian.catt

We have actually reduced drudgery dramatically since early mechanisation of production with added automation and handling machinery, there are even "lights out" manufacturing plants. Some human intervention is still required, not much. That means there are not many people in developed countries suffering this drudgery, but also there is much less for the poorer and/or not so bright people who used to do the agricultural then manufacturing labour. So they are now pointless. We will have to shrink population of the masses quite significantly, or pay them to do pointless jobs in government and other QUANGOs as a tax on the wealth creators, slowing down the few people who actually create value. Tough old sociological problem which America and Europe have yet to address with their masses of people who will never do anything that adds value to the GDP, or serves the people creating that GDP, in their whole lives. We have at lesast achieved a flat population, but it needs to reduce and we still have people coming here from backward agrarian countries and breeding unsustainably as with the Palestinians in Gaza and Beirut. Better they are not born in the first place to face this existence but how to stop it. China can and did cut the legal birth rate to one per family, but that does not seem to have reduced its population much...wonder why. God knows what would have happened w/o that measure, though. Right idea. India has not even recognised high birth rate plus much lower infant mortality rate as a problem, poor people don't matter there, as the bodies left by the roadside from the airport and the conditions for most poort people will quickly demonstrate. But long term health care and industrialisation has defied nature to the extent we are in danger of overrunning the planet, which either we fix by controlling the birth rate and resource consumption or the Planet will, with a shrug and over a blink in geological time. I'm sure we'll not be missed. Which makes me want to drink at work, and elsewhere. BTW Always used to have a nice glass of Red Wine in the Executive Lunch room, or go the pub for a pint at lunchtime when I were a lad .... then Americans bought the companies. Puritans and Roundheads had returned, plus the Germans (most American manufacturing managements were really German or wannabe Germans).

ICan2
ICan2

Where can I sign up?

drowningnotwaving
drowningnotwaving

What???? How the hell are you supposed to seduce them? Well, there are other ways I guess but they are more time-consuming and expensive ... You haven't really thought this through, have you.

ICan2
ICan2

The puritans themselves... Those folks standing over in the corner looking down on everyone else.

jhogue
jhogue

how about don't DRIVE (back to work or anywhere else) impaired ?

ICan2
ICan2

So you're saying that cars cost as much as they do because all workers in the auto industry have to go to rehab?

Ciscokid1
Ciscokid1

Why the concern about what people do on their own time? They did nothing illegal. If they come back over the legal limit, there's an issue, but if not, it's their time, their life. Maybe people should worry more about their own lives than what other people are doing.

Ventaur
Ventaur

I largely agree with you, Dr_Zinj. However, there is one glaring flaw in your reasoning. We simply CANNOT rely on people to know their limits or have personal responsibility. Seriously! The average American that I walk amongst is an inconsiderate, self-absorbed, idiot that is only after what is entirely good for him/herself. How many drunk drivers, incapacitated equipment workers, or the like, do you hear say, "I'm fine! Psh, it's my life that I may or may not be endangering. Mind your own business!" All that said just before killing a family in the other car, or his colleagues at the construction site. The people that do this kind of crap are the ones that need babysitting. They only care about themselves and rarely think more than 5 minutes ahead to see the risk they will bring to others.

bblackmoor
bblackmoor

Finally, a voice of reason! The fact that anyone would be expected to work eight straight hours without a break aside (which is bad enough), I am sick to death of the neo-Puritans in this country who are horrified by the idea that anyone might have a glass of wine with their pasta. These are the same short-sighted control freaks who don't blink an eye at invasions of people's medical privacy as a condition of employment.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

There are better ways to disnumb than to chemically numb up. For instance: You can put your lunch through a blender and into a bottle, so you can eat it through a straw, doing TR meanwhile :D

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

they have bad gender mix, and he/she doesn't swing that way... in that case, it really may have been (already) a bad bad idea :D

JamesRL
JamesRL

They were seen drinking in a public park (not legal in most states) and smoking marijauna. And this didn't happen once, it was a pattern repeated over ten days. If they were working in an office, then its at the discretion of the manager, if they are unable to perform their job there will be consequences. If they are working on a factory floor they could be endangering others, and there should be zero tolerance for that.

wildcatfan101
wildcatfan101

This is the theory that enabled the Volstead Act to be ratified. Congress decided that adults could not be responsible for their actions. The same type of mass punishment that is still prevalent today. The for the good of the people line sometimes goes to far. Bottom line, if Chrysler has a no drinking during work policy they are justified in the firing.

bblackmoor
bblackmoor

No, Ventaur: the attitude you seem to have is part of the problem. We are not children. We do not need babysitting. A very large part of the problem with the USA today is that no one is permitted to act like an adult and make adult decisions, so we have a generation that takes it for granted that they will not have to deal with the consequences of their behavior because someone else is always telling them what they may and may not do. People who don't want adults to have adult responsibilities have created this problem. The only way to solve it is to give people back responsibility for their own lives and decisions. Decriminalizing tobacco (and anything else a consenting adult wants to smoke or imbibe) is a start.

JamesRL
JamesRL

But the example is drinking and smoking pot then returning to work. The likelihood that those workers were significantly impaired on an ongoing basis is pretty high. And as I've mentioned, those workers were not bashing keyboards but building cars, where attention to detail and being safe has an impact on their coworkers and the customers who buy those cars.

jck
jck

Can I just have my TR with a rum and coke? Or, a margarita? Better make that 2 margaritas. Sonja might show up. :^0

Ventaur
Ventaur

These people HAVE the responsibility to stay sober during work hours. It's in their Policies and Procedures manual. The issue is not whether or not they are given the responsibility; they obviously are. The issue is they need to be held accountable for idiotic actions. No, people that do not take their responsibilities seriously are not always children; they are usually adults with no consideration for others. I'm merely suggesting that the punishment be harsher. In this case, it was perfect; fire them. However, if you kill somebody due to your idiocy, you should go to jail. Argue me on this point and you only prove to everyone which type of person you are.

Tommy S.
Tommy S.

This isn't puritanism, they are at work drinking off a brown bag concealed bottle and smoking joints... Spare us the personal responsibilities thing. This is not drinking a beer at the diner. You have the responsibility to be sober in a factory, and they obviously were not grown up enough to accomplish that. If you let this go, the next step will be spiked coffee and king size beer bottles hidden in brown bags on the working floor. Im all for freedom, in your house, on your own time. BTW you have the right to quit your job and get drunk all day long if you want to.

bblackmoor
bblackmoor

This is not about being impaired at work. These people were not fired for having poor job performance. If their job performance was such that they could not do their jobs safely and competently, they would have had disciplinary action taken against them before the news story ran. Since no such disciplinary action had taken place, they clearly were not impaired.* The only reason these people were fired is because a news story ran that showed that they had had the sheer audacity to have a drink at lunch. Gasp! Horrors! (*And if Chrysler's standard of quality is so low that a group of drunks could show up and start assembling a car and no one could tell the difference, then Chrysler has much bigger problems than a few people having a beer at lunch.)