5 Myths About Henry Ford

He Was a Progressive Manager
At the Highland Park Plant in 1913, Henry Ford introduced the first moving assembly line for cars. Within 18 months it took only 1.5 man-hours to build a Model T. (Courtesy of the Ford Motor Company)

On the surface, Henry Ford implemented a lot of different programs and policies that helped his workers. Some of his supporters tout these as "progressive" or even "liberal" ideas. Without any backstory, that interpretation is understandable. But as we've already discussed, Henry Ford was anything but liberal. In his defense, his motivation wasn't really profit. He simply wanted to improve the way he ran his business. Despite Ford's seemingly family-friendly policies, though, he really did try to control much of his employees' lives outside the plant. As the biggest auto manufacturer in the world (at the time) this behavior had far-reaching effects. Ford was particularly vexed by the possibility of unionization, and worked so hard to prevent his employees from unionizing that the National Labor Relations Board had to step in. In the late 1930s, when the unions were picking up steam throughout Detroit, Henry Ford was contemplating shutting down his company to prevent it [source: History.com]. He eventually gave in. In 1941, Ford signed a contract with the United Auto Workers.

As you'll see on the next page, the myth about Henry Ford's "progressive" workplace culture is worth discussing even further.

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