|Killing the Goose...|
Chapter 44: To the Death
The ambulance arrived about a half hour after I made my call. In the meantime I made three or four trips up and down the stairs to gather writing material for The ambulance arrived about a half hour after I made my call. In the meantime I made three or four trips up and down the stairs to gather writing material for The Smoking Gun book I was writing and to make a final check for unsightly nose hairs. The tremors and sweating had stopped. I didnt feel faint. The pain in my chest moderated considerably but the pain along the back of my arms hung tough. Whatever had happened to me no longer seemed life threatening and I felt a little foolish walking outside, locking my door, and telling the EMS technician who was looking for the emergency that I was it.
My blood pressure was a little high but not as high as the EMS guys were used to seeing with heart attacks and they werent sure about the symptoms I described. I told them how silly I felt for bothering them and they assured me that it was better at my age to err on the side of caution.
So far nothing I said to the 911 operator or the EMS technicians sounded urgent. I looked healthy to the technicians and I questioned whether the pain in my arms was sufficient reason for me to go to the hospital. The driver shrugged indifferently and the man attending me said that it was up to me but he would recommend that I go just to be sure. We drove off to Sinai Grace, the closest hospital to my home. The driver did not turn on his siren or flashers. He drove the speed limit and stopped at all of the red lights.
Once inside the hospital, the EMS guys and I had to fill out paperwork before I was admitted to the treatment room. I kept rocking and rubbing my arms instead of clutching my chest. That was a mistake. The emergency room doctors put me on hold because they were busy with other patients who seemed to be in more distress than I was, particularly a four-year-old girl screaming with the pain of her treatments for meningitis. A nurse finally got a doctors attention by pointing out to him that I mentioned chest pains although I didnt look sick and I didnt cry out in pain the way the other emergency patients were doing.
The last thing you want to see on your doctors face is fear. Thats what I saw when he hooked me up to the EKG machine and the graph whet crazy. He asked me if I ever had a heart attack. I told him that I hadnt.
He said, Youre having one now.
The little girl in the bed next to me was screaming louder than ever and her father was ragging on the doctor for not attending to her. A nurse pulled him away trying to explain what was happening but he didnt want to hear it. When more doctors were called to my side he threatened to sue the hospital and everyone in sight for neglecting his child.
Ah! I thought. That explained the look of fear on the doctors face. He was afraid that I would die and my family would sue because of how long it took him to get to me. Good grief. The scene was so frantic and absurd with everyone running around shouting Stat! that I started to joke about it. I couldnt help it. If I was gong to make it, cool. If I wasnt I might as well be cool. Why not joke about it?
When the crisis abated, the attending physician told me very dramatically that I would have died if the EMS driver hadnt gotten me to the hospital when he did. He said that I wouldnt have lasted another ten minutes. I made the 911 call at around 2:00 A.M. I didnt get treated until sometime after 5:00 A.M. and the delay was entirely my fault. I looked at the nurse who really saved my life. I smiled at her. She smiled back.
The tests were torture. The next day I called into work and told Dan Botruff that I had a dynamite excuse for missing the safety class. I told him what happened and where I was. He came to see me and I told him to keep what happened to me under his hat because I didnt want it getting back to my sister until I had a better idea of how I was doing.
Just take care of yourself, buddy, he said. We need you.
My hospital cardiologists told me that they couldnt find the cause of my heart attack. They suspected that the muscles around an artery clamped up for unknown reasons but they couldnt say for sure. I made an appointment to see one of the cardiologists after I was discharged from the hospital without the arm pains but with a persistent chest pain and a runaway heartbeat.
A problem cropped up right away with my insurance coverage and I never made it to the appointment. I didnt have the Blue Cross insurance I thought I had. Somewhere during the breakdowns in my computer at work, I was switched to Omni Care and the costs for the ambulance, the hospital stay and my medicine had to come out of my pocket. To cover my future medical expenses, I had to get an approved Omni Care physician who, in turn, had to recommend me to an approved Omni Care cardiologist. I couldnt go back to work until I fund an Omni Care primary physician who would sign the back-to-work slip. This is where the system broke down, as least as far as I was concerned.
I couldnt get my heart medication because I didnt have an Omni Care insurance card and I couldnt get one because I didnt know the right number of the group I was supposed to belong to. I called Ford Personnel, now known as Human Resources, and got the runaround. I called Dan Botruff. He also got the runaround. Ditto with Omni Care.
I saw my sister at work, making up a story about my sinus condition to keep her from worrying about me. She didnt know I wasnt supposed to be there and I didnt want the news to give her a heart attack.
Sara got on the phone and started making calls. It was fascinating to watch her in action, getting past one roadblock after another that stopped Dan Botruff and me cold. She knew who to talk to, who not to talk to, what to say and how to say it. She kept at it until she got me what I needed. I told her how impressed I was with her skill and tenacity. To her, it was old hat. She dealt with things like that every day. She knew that the information had to be recorded somewhere and she knew what patterns to look for in narrowing it down to the right source.
I didnt go back to work until the second week of January 2002. It took that long to find an Omni Care doctor who would give me the back-to-work permission slip. The form had two check boxes that boiled down to whether or not Dan Botruff would allow me to avoid the stresses that might have brought on the heart attack. She wanted to know if my boss would use common sense and act responsibly if she wrote the permission slip with no restrictions. I told her that he would, believing that the Americans with Disabilities Act, which required employers to make reasonable accommodations for workers with disabilities, would leave him no choice. She signed the slip.
My first week back was rockier that I thought it would be.
Doing my exercises before I left was not a problem. Driving my car was not a problem. But the minute I pulled to a stop in the parking lot I started coming apart. I had to pop a nitro pill before I could open my car door. When I entered the building I broke out into a sweat and my left arm trembled. My heart beat faster than it did when I finished running in place. Five minutes later I could function somewhat normally. Sometimes I could go hours without feeling that another heart attack was imminent. Sometimes I couldnt. I told Botruff what was going on and he was as considerate as I thought he would be. He helped me though some rough spots in the paperwork to get me back onboard in good form and looked for ways to make me more comfortable.
Botruff and I had long talk about my frustrations that preceded the heart attack. He admitted that he hadnt made good use of my talents. A few days later he approached me with a challenging assignment. He wanted me to identify fit and finish issues for engineers in vender companies that made various interior parts for Ford and other auto companies. Here was a chance to build a ready reference library for Ford Motor Company that others could build on indefinitely. The more I got into it the better I felt until I was going the entire workday with minimal discomfort.
The first thing I looked at was standardizing the language of modelers and engineers throughout the automotive industry. We had countless fit and finish problems simply because Ford, GM, Toyota and Chrysler gave some standard parts different names. The venders had to give each part a number instead of a name to know they were referring to the same part. When they subcontracted component parts the subcontractor renumbered the parts to conform to their part identification system. One typo anywhere in the chain of handoffs could create havoc.
I got nowhere with the name standardization because Ford engineers had a system they liked and they didnt want to change it. So I simply listed it as a key general issue and proceeded to the next one.
Measurement was a key general issue. When an engineer determined that a specific gap between parts was necessary it could mean three of four different things. He or she might measure it one way. A clay modeler or math modeler might measure it a second way. The people assembling the parts at a particular plant might measure it a third way. Another plant might have tools that could measure it only a fourth way. To know what a given dimension meant you had to know how many ways a margin could be measured, who was doing it and why. You had to know which view to use for each measurement and where to draw it.
To get the colors right you had to make decisions about materials, parting lines, manufacturing techniques and assembly methods. You had to nail them down in a precise order to prevent costly redesigns, which could create new fit and finish problems. Some plastics had to have the color mixed into the molded part. Others could be painted. You had to know the properties of the plastics to know which part had to be sighed off on in which order or you might not ever get the colors to match.
Issues like these applied across the board so I put them on a cover sheet. Drawing on my experience, I identified 24 essential issues on a generic instrument panel. Dan wanted me to do the same thing for the header, the A-pillars and the doors. I did. I made the drawings, indexed the parts and wrote the instructions. My next step was to show our engineers what I had and get their input on what they would add, delete or change to make it simpler and easer to follow. Thats what I was doing when Botruff called me into his office.
Dan told me that I did way too much. He wanted me to strip it down to the essentials. I told him I did. Thats what took most of the work and thats why the lists were so short. He wanted me to make them shorter. He wanted me to take out the stuff about the measurements and the colors. He wanted everything on one page instead of two. Every two or three days he would tell me to take out more until all I had left was a newer version of the useless crap I started with.
Dan didnt want a recipe book for optimum fit and finish. He wanted a paint-by-numbers set with bigger number blocks and fewer numbers. I was back to busywork and back to popping nitro pills and aspirin two or thre times a day.
Every meeting I had to attend was an automatic nitro pill, two aspirins and an early exit. I never made it all the way thorough any of them. I had to keep walking or talking all day to avoid falling asleep. When I went home early with chest pains, sweats and tremors, which I did more and more often, I nodded out and stayed out until early the next morning.
Meanwhile, Jacques Nasser led Ford Motor Co. from four billion dollars in the black to five and a half billion dollars in the red in one year. I could take no more comfort from the fact that I knew it was coming and tried to prevent it than Roger Boisjoly and other Morton Thiokol engineers could take from the Challenger explosion.
Nasser was like the NASA executive who made the decision to launce the shuttle. He was one man elected by a board of directors to do what they wanted him to do. I never credited him for the rise in Ford stock and I never blamed him for the collapse. The products that Ford sold in 99 and 2000 were started four of five years earlier with experience acquired over decades. Nasser could not have blown nine billion dollars without the approval of board Chairman William Clay Ford, Jr. and the majority of other board members. They couldnt have done it without the collaboration of Ford Human Resources, and creative accounting methods in every form throughout every division at every level.
Fords performance review system was a prime example of creative accounting. It didnt correspond to reality so upper management was bond to make bad decisions about its personnel assets and liabilities. Forcing people like Purnell and me to sue the company because of artificial performance level caps and bigoted assessments of our value was a disastrous decision. Forcing genuine superstars like Mike Hornai and Mimi Vandermolen out of the door was a disastrous decision.
Almost everyone applauded when Fords board of directors ousted Nasser and made William Clay Ford, Jr. the President and CEO as well as their Chairman. In the Design Center and the Product Development Center, applause turned to groans when Ford, Jr. appeared on closed circuit television to announce his plans for turning the company around. He was going to increase the number of top-notch engineers, close down factories in the U.S. and shift their production to South America. He was going to reduce salary headcount substantially by natural attrition where possible and forced separation where necessary. He was going to introduce twenty new automotive products in the next two years.
Huh? Ford had already reduced its headcount by getting rid of some of its best engineers. Force separations? That was a great morale booster. And twenty new automotive products in two years? Where were they going to come from? Ford executives hadnt yet learned how to go from the concept of a vehicle to its completion in less than three years. The 2002 T-Bird took four years. I couldnt count more than three new Ford products that had any chance of coming on the market in the next two years. Was our new CEO delusional or intellectually deprived?
I could relate to being intellectually deprived. That was an unexpected side effect of my heart attack. My reasoning powers were intact but other intellectual chores were enormously difficult. Words like dog or airplane escaped me and I had to use phrases like barking pet or flying machine in their place. I specifically recall that I wasnt sure what a giraffe was. I would have guessed that it was an ape.
As long as I recognized my limitations and steered clear of the giraffes nobody could tell how much I was struggling. The only difficulty I had with the fit and finish recipe was remembering all of the joints. I didnt consider it a problem because I had engineers all around me who could think of the ones I couldnt and name some I never knew. It was still my recipe book. I couldnt do it as quickly as I could have done it before and I needed to ask more questions, but I would have asked questions anyway and, crippled or not, I was way ahead of anyone else. No one else could even see that I was crippled.
One thing nagged at me. Prior to the mediation, I sought to encourage Martin to do his best for me by telling him that I had documents relevant to the lawsuit that I might release to the press. They werent covered by the judges gag order because I hadnt shown them to anyone involved in the case. The ones I held in reserve did not necessarily reflect on his representation but he couldnt afford to take the chance that they would. But what about Fords attorneys? Why had they shown no concern over the loopholes in the gag order that they knew by now I was likely to find and us to go to the press? What did they know that I didnt?
Between my sudden trip to the hospital and my mini-trial I found out why Ford wasnt afraid of me going to the press. The realization dawned slowly as I started making concrete plans for my media offensive. Ford Motor Company was a big sponsor of National Public Radios All Things Considered and Morning Edition. Ford sponsored news programs locally and nationally on all the major television networks. Ford ran two-page ads in black publications like Ebony and Essence. Ford managed news stories about its charitable contributions to the black community and resistance it was getting from many white employees to its diversity efforts. When I looked up the Association of Black Journalists website, the first thing I saw was a thank you note to Ford Motor Company for its generous help in setting up the site.
I recalled a news story about a black woman who got a million-dollar settlement from Ford because of harassment on the job at some obscure Ford facility. Ford turned that story and one about sexual harassment at another facility into a PR coup by denouncing the supervisors who acted against Ford policy to allow it. Ford then launched and publicized a wide rage of programs that made it look as though Ford was going the extra mile to promote race, sex and age diversity. Nobody I contacted in the media wanted to hear that it wasnt. Fords subtle, systemic and complex forms of sex, race and age discrimination were not newsworthy .
The arbitration was set for April. Ford made its final offer and Martin told Purnell and me to give it serious consideration because none of the plaintiffs had received a higher offer. Notwithstanding the $350,000 in punitive damages alone that the law said we were entitled to if we could prove our allegations, arbitrators rarely awarded more than $100,000 dollars. Fords final offer to us was close to $200,000 each.
Martin argued that he was ethically obliged to advise us to take the offer, which included the Deadwood package that we categorically rejected. He said that at this stage of the legal process it wasnt about some grand political statement we wanted to make. He said that it was only about money. The two hundred grand was guaranteed and there was a chance that the arbitrator would award us less even if he concluded that our claims were well founded and decided in our favor.
Martins legal advice had not served us well in the past. He had consistency underestimated what we had against Ford as well as what we had going for ourselves and advised us accordingly. He didnt even tell us about the possibility of a legal process that would rob us of the chance to present our case to a jury until the judge imposed it. He sat on all of the vital information that could have prevented the judge from doing it. He advised us that we would be better off in our mini-trial with one arbitrator instead of a three-person panel. He specifically requested Roscoe or Lewis of ADR Associates in Washington D.C., the legal firm that provide the mediators in our mediation sessions. Ford agreed on Roscoe. We got Roscoe.
In February 2002, before Roscoe fixed a firm date for the mini-trial, I ended up in the hospital again when the symptoms that signaled my first heart attack tossed me out of sleep at four oclock in the morning. This time I passed out with a nitro pill under my tongue before I could reach the upstairs bathroom three steps from by bedroom to get an aspirin. I returned to consciousness sitting in the corner like a rag doll without remembering that I had fallen. I could just as easily have gone headfirst down the stairs the way I pictured Les Martin doing with my help. I was out for an hour. Although my heart wasnt beating as ferociously as it had when it woke me up and I had only the pain in my chest that I had grown accustomed to in the past few months, I called 911.
As soon as I got my hospital room I called Dan Botruff to tell him what happened. I got his voice mail and left a message where he could reach me. He called me back. I told him that I didnt know when I would get back to work. He told me not to worry about it.
I worried about the fact that my blood pressure had dropped to 70 over 50. If 120/80 was supposed to be good I didnt see how 70/50 could be. It looked like something I saw in a movie were doctors were working frantically over a patient and yelling, Were losing him! I worried about the fact that none of the doctors or nurses in the intensive care unit noticed my steadily dropping blood pressure until I pointed it out. I worried about the fact that the nurse I summoned didnt note it on my medical chart and nobody else mentioned it. I worried that the EKG readings said one thing and my body said another. Something was terribly wrong. My doctors were clueless as to what it was and they were trying to hide their mistakes instead of admitting them just like Ford.
They kept looking at my age and my family history: Mother dead at 57 from cancer. Brother dead at 56 from heart attack. Father dead at 51 from a high blood pressure induced heart attack. I was 55. They kept looking for a mechanical breakdown, a temporary clog in the plumbing or some genetic predisposition they could deduce from what their latest and greatest machines could tell them. If I said something that didnt agree with their machines, they ignored it. If I said something that didnt match the usual suspects for heart conditions they knew about they ignored it.
A young resident doctor who was on duty when I had the first heart attack didnt ignore anything. Dr. Hussen was fascinated by a benign abnormality in the artery terminals connecting to my heart. He researched it and found a correlation between that abnormality and heart attacks like mine in only six cases in the world dating back to 1960. The correlation was so rare that nobody bothered to see if it meant anything. He wanted to follow up on it. I thought it might explain why some of my symptoms didnt match what the doctors expected. In any event, his research went nowhere because the other doctors ignored him.
My return to work this time was painful from start to finish. I dragged around in a fog and the cardiologist my doctor sent me to was no help. When I told him what I was experiencing in the way of muscle cramps, headaches, skin rashes, excessive sleeping, persistent gas pains, memory lapses and difficulty concentrating, his eyes began to roll. He didnt think those things were important. He was concerned about my persistent chest pains and how rapidly my heart was beating at rest. I lost my temper and told him that he wasnt paying attention to me. He told me bluntly that my heart was beating so fast that one of my heart chambers could fill up with blood before it had time to empty and I could die on the spot. As near as I could gather, he wanted to find a way to slow my heart down, yet, he wanted me to continue exercising. I thought he was nuts.
The dying on the spot warning had gotten old. Like a constant diet of anything, you get tired of it. I thought I was going to die on the spot at least twice a day. Every morning I woke up I was surprised that I did and every time I took the battery of pills that were supposed to be keeping me alive, I wondered if taking them was worth it. I suspected that some of those pills were bigger threats to my well being than the symptoms they were supposed to alleviate. My regular doctor told me that if I didnt take them to strengthen my heart she couldnt give me more two or three months to live. I knew I was in bad shape but like the sacred number on the Cougar headlight curve I suspected that she pulled my two or three month life expectancy without her pills out of her ass.
One day I came to work two hours late and saw Dan Botruff above me crossing a pedestrian on my way in. I waved up at him. He waved back. I suffered thought the day as long as I could stand it and left two hours early. I saw Botruff on my way out. I waved at him. He waved back.
The next morning I got to work late again and saw a sticky note on my computer keyboard from Dan asking me to call him when I got in. It was after 9:00. His note said that he left it at 7:15 .
We sat across from each other at a long table in a conference room where he sometimes met in confidential meetings with his Primaries. It was the first time I had seen the inside of that room. I couldnt believe the confidential conversation we had beginning with his observation that I came in late that morning.
I sat there thinking, Huh? I had no job assignments and I did well to come to work at all. What happened to our understanding about that?
I saw you leaving early yesterday with your coat and hat on.
Yeah. We waved at each other.
Dan squinted. I dont remember that.
I came in late yesterday, too, and I waved at you on my way in.
Dan shook his head as though learning about the incident for the first time. I didnt see you.
I was coming down the hallway. You were crossing the bridge. I waved at you. You waved back and you kept going.
I must have thought you were somebody else.
That couldnt have been true. Black people stuck out in PDC like black pebbles on a beach littered with white ones. We were no more than thirty feet from each other. And he knew me.
Maybe you were preoccupied, I said.
Maybe so. Anyway, we have to talk about your coming and going the way youve been doing lately. You dont attend scheduled meetings. You called in sick
Hold it. The last time I called in sick I did it from the hospital.
Dan, I got your voice mail. You had to call the hospital to reach me.
But you came in the next day.
Yes. I come in every day when I can. I went to see you. I was weak. I was sweating. My hand was trembling and we had a long talk about my condition. You told me not to push myself. You told me that I didnt have to go to meetings if they made me uncomfortable
I dont remember anything like that. I might have said you could take it easy but you still have to follow procedure.
I need a note from your doctor telling me when you cant go to the meetings or when you have to leave early or come in late.
This was absurd. How could I get a note from my doctor every time I didnt feel well enough to do one thing or another? It was physically impossible. Moreover, Botruff knew I had a time bomb ticking in my chest that could explode even as we spoke. Why was he talking to me as though I were making up weak excuses to get out of boring meetings and ducking out early to go home and watch soap operas?
Botruff and I circled the track around the logic of his request. Was I supposed to go to my doctor for a note when I didnt feel well enough to follow the program, come back and give it to him to get excused?
Yes. If I didnt think I could comply with his request I had to go on medical leave. He said that he was getting complaints from his other math modelers who he talked to for coming in late and leaving early. He said that he had to crack down on me to keep them in line. They accused him of giving me preferential treatment and he couldnt show them that he wasnt without violating his pledge to me to keep quiet about my heart condition.
Preferential treatment. Now I got it. That old racist shit again. Some of Dan Botruffs people thought he was going easy on me because I was the only black person in the group and this was his way of showing them that he gave everyone equal treatment Ridiculous. He was the boss. He didnt have to tell them why they had to do things that I didnt. If all they could see was my color, why listen to them at all?
I applied for medical leave that morning, March 11, 2002. After my little talk with Dan I got so sick that I couldnt have stayed there under any circumstances. My chest hurt more than usual. I couldnt see straight. I couldnt walk straight. I started sweating. I wondered if my symptoms would clear up when I got out of the door. As always, they did.
I faxed my lawyer a one-page letter describing what happened. It took me over 14 hours to write. It should have taken me no more than two hours. Martin should have advised me that it was worthless.
A lawyer named Jerry Goldberg told me about it when I went to see him in 2003. He pulled out the state and federal statutes and showed them to me. They were clear, concise and specific. To have legal standing, I would have had to get a letter from my doctor similar to the one Botruff asked for. Only after that would his failure to make reasonable accommodations have met the necessary legal tests under the State and Federal provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The law was on the side of the people and institutions that knew the applicable paragraphs of the law in advance of the violation. Ford knew the applicable paragraphs. I didnt. My doctor didnt. I couldnt imagine that Dan Botruff knew. Yet, as irrational as he sounded at the time, he did exactly what he had to do to take Ford off the hook for forcing me into retirement before I had the financial means to do it. Didnt he know that he was putting extreme pressure on me to accept Fords deadwood buyout offer and pressure like that could kill me? What was his thinking and who was behind it?
I would learn in the mini trial that Human Relations Carol Murdock was behind it. It was standard procedure for employees who took excessive time off of work.
Ford granted me the medical leave although Omni Care claimed that I didnt qualify because I didnt submit the proper insurance form. I didnt get them. I called Dan Botruff. He helped me through a maze of departments and agencies until he found the name and number of the person I had to talk to. I thought that we got the problems straightened out. They would come back with full force after the arbitration.
Meanwhile, I couldnt write checks or fill out forms. My chest hurt all the time. My heard pounded like a jackhammer most of my waking day and I was falling asleep and staying asleep for 14 to 16 hours at a stretch. Thinking was like trudging through knee-deep mud in a dense fog. I couldnt read or write complex sentence. And my doctor was telling me that if I kept exercising, watched my diet and continued to take the medicine that I believed was turning me into semi-conscious gerbil, I would live another 20 years.
This was my state of physical and mental alacrity when Martin Wiseman called Charles Purnell and me to tell us that the arbitrator, Jerry Roscoe, had set the date for our mini-trial. Rosco charged $18,000 for his services. Ford paid half of his fee. In January, Roscoe had informed Martin that Purnell and I had to cough up $4.500 dollars each to cover the other half to be fair to Ford. We got the date when we paid his fee.
Martin called us to his Weisman, Trogan, Young & Schloss office in Southfield where he introduced us to his associate Dale Ward. Dales name appeared on the letterhead of a missive Martin sent to Purnell and me in June 2000 informing us of his attempt to get Rosco or Lewis of ADR Associates as the arbitrator. Martin didnt mention Dale in the body of the letter but in going though my old letters to see where his name first appeared I found a passage that rattled me. I read it several times without getting a clear idea of why it bothered me.
I decided that I couldnt decipher anything like this and take my medication at the same time. I stopped taking the medication. Just as I suspected, the fog in my brain began to lift and I could think well enough to go back to Martins June 2000 letter and identify what troubled me:
In addition, as I previously advised you, we have four months to conduct our discovery from the date that the arbitrator sets. The first three months will be designed for paper discovery as opposed to depositions. That was it! as opposed to depositions.
Martins preamble to that phrase made it appear at the time that he would use three months for paper discovery and a month for depositions. But that wasnt what he wrote. He left himself a loophole to avoid taking depositions altogether and to argue that he told us in writing that he wasnt going to do it. He made it sound as though he told us in previous discussions that he wasnt going to take depositions and we agreed to it.
We agreed to no such thing. Witness testimony was vital to our charges, particularly the ones that sounded too outrageous to be true. Purnell had over a dozen witnesses left. I had over five-dozen. They included Don Peterson, Red Poling and William Clay Ford, Jr., all of whom received letters from me warning of the coming financial disaster for Ford because of what it was doing to employees like me. I had top designers and Master Modelers on my side. As of April 2002 no one at Springer & Lang or Weisman, Trogan, Young & Schloss interviewed one of them.
In the two weeks preceding the mini-trial Purnell and I got one unbelievable piece of news after another. We had a total of 20 hours to present witnesses and evidence and to rebut Fords witnesses and evidence. Ford also had a total of 20 hours to present its witnesses and evidence and to rebut ours. Thats right, after almost ten years of struggle, sacrifice, headaches, heartache and mental torture to get a hearing we had half a standard workweek to make our case to one man.
We could present no more than 14 witnesses, seven for Purnell and seven for me. We could not introduce evidence of age discrimination. Even though our below average salaries were rooted in the racism encouraged by Fords performance review system from day one, we could compare ourselves only to white clay modelers who surpassed us after 1990. This was a crippling blow to me. I was trying to make a case for being one of Fords best modelers ever an extraordinary claim demanding extraordinary evidence and Fords best as measured by their salaries were not on the comparison list. We couldnt call some witnesses because Ford somehow succeeded in baring our lawyers from contacting them. Without their depositions they were irrelevant.
Dale Ward did most of the work in preparing our cases. My violent thoughts turned to him when I saw the critical errors he made in my written summary that was going to the arbitrator, which he obviously gathered mostly of from Fords summary. Two nitro pills later I changed my mind about Dale. He sat with me patiently going through each paragraph to correct the errors and to understand why some things he wrote in my name were booby-traps that Ford planted in its summary for him to pick up. Finally I had a lawyer who was listening to me.
One week before the arbitration, Purnell and I met with Dale to go over what Dale learned in his telephone interviews with the people on our truncated witness lists. He told me that Greg Arceri, George Green and Mike Hornai didnt recall any of the key things I told him to ask them about. He said that Dennis Phinney wouldnt talk to him because Ford Human Resources told him that our lawyers were not allowed to contact him. Dale didnt want any part of Dennis. Dale said Delikta told him that he would never say anything against Ford. He said that he bled Ford blue. Dale asked me what that meant. I told him.
Dale thought that the strongest witnesses I had were Cal Morrison and Dave River Nigger Davison, who confirmed everything I said about Harry Finley the nazi and Vic Clark the Klansman. He thought that Dave Hackett would be a good witness for me and a great witness for Purnell. I Wanted Phinney. I didnt want Hackett. Purnell did. We got Hackett. The next day I told Martin that I wanted Jim Biando. He never told Dale.
On the Saturday before the Wednesday mini-trial, Martin called Purnell and me to his office to review our written summaries and solidify our strategy. Martin wanted me to go first. I said that I was only functioning at 70% mentally. Dale said that it was more that he expected to see from the other side. Purnell agreed. You cant see yourself so you have to go with how the people you trust see you. I trusted Purnell. He trusted me. Neither of us trusted Martin but both of us trusted Dale.
Dale still hadnt corrected some gross errors in my summary. He and Martin told me that it was just a formality and the arbitrator probably wouldnt even look at it. He said that my testimony would have the most powerful influence on the arbitrator and he thought I would be my own best witness and the best witness for Purnell.
Martin agreed. While he was at it, he dropped three bombshells:
We were going to have our hearing at Fords Dearborn Training Center enemy ground. The hearing was going to begin on Monday, not Wednesday as we had previously been told. There would be no record of the proceedings, no stenographer, no tape recording and no appeal.
I reached for my nitro pill bottle. Purnell looked like he wanted to reach for a gun. He leaped out of his seat and rained curses down on Martin and Dale. Id never seen him so angry. Ford Training Center! Monday! No record! No appeal with this guy laying all this shit on as at the last minute? Martin said that he would see what he could do about the tape recorder. I told him that I would bring mine. He told me not to
I got a bad feeling about the mini-trial when I waked through the door on May 20, 2002. I went into my trooper mode and focused on the mission. This is how I felt before every combat assault I went on in Vietnam, nervous but ready. The enemy, a pale, skinny dude named Peale and his young female sidekick had to be more nervous than I was. They had to defend a lie.
I didnt shake Peales outstretched hand. I ignored his sidekick. When he took a seat at the long conference table, I stepped in the space across from him, pulled out a pocket tape recorder and placed it on the table. I was not afraid of antagonizing Jerry Roscoe. Every decision hed made so far put Purnell and me at a huge disadvantage. The mediation shame his company presided over had to have been a ploy to maneuver Martin into accepting him or one of his colleagues as the no-appeal arbitrator. Nevertheless, he had to give the appearance of being fair. He had to ask himself what I would do if he didnt. He would have to be blind, stupid and crazy not to see the possibility that somebody could get killed.
Roscoe told me that I couldnt use my tape recorder. My tape recorder was not the same as a tape recorder. There was room for movement.
I fixed my eyes on Peales skinny neck and let the situation dictate what happened next. I was the biggest, blackest guy in the room. I did not behave in a civil manner when I walked in but I made no threats and violated no rules. Roscoe hadnt ordered me to take my tape recorder off of the table. He just said that I couldnt use it.
Martin called a conference with Roscoe and Peale. They got a tape recorder from an empty classroom, a huge, white thing that looked like a museum exhibit. Purnell and I stared at it incredulously. We wanted another one but we didnt want to push. We should have pushed.
Roscoe made rules for using of the recorder, He said that he would use the tapes only to check his facts but Peale and Martin would get copies. Many of the copies Martin got were too defective to play .
I was the first witness. I asked Martin to start me off with a question about my Army Commendation Medal to set up the rest of my testimony about my character my consistency and my drive to excel. I didnt count on what it would do to me emotionally. The Army awarded the ARCOM only to its best soldiers who performed exceptionally well under the worst conditions over a long stretch of time. Until that moment I hadnt realized how much it meant to me. It hit me like a tidal wave. I broke down and cried uncontrollably.
When I pulled myself together I was ready. I testified for myself and for Charles Purnell. On cross-examination I thought I did well. Martin, Dale and Purnell told me I kicked ass. Dale and Purnell were elated.
My witnesses were dazzling. Dave Hackett topped them all just because he was Dave Hackett a white Master Modeler that Ford considered one its best who said no less of me. When Martin showed him the PDMS instruction booklet I wrote he not only confirmed that I wrote it, he said that it was typical of what I did.
We ran into a snag with Dave Davison when Roscoe made a rule change on the fly. He couldnt testify about the nazi Harry Finley because Finley was not a Supervisor. Roscoe ruled that any testimony about what someone other than a Supervisor said about me was hearsay. Peale compared the role of a Master Modeler in Finleys position to that of a secretary handling routine chores while the boss was away someone without authority to make management decisions. Roscoe bought it.
Mike backed up what I said about the performance review system. He said that I deserved an O but he couldnt give it to me. Calvin was so devastating that Peale didnt cross-examine him. Arceri later said that Calvin was the most honorable guy in the company. It looked as though things were getting out of hand for Peale when he called his witnesses against me and most of them testified decidedly for me. Greg Arceri remembered everything that he couldnt recall when Dale talked to him on the phone. Like Arceri, Joe Seibold said that he would have made me a Master Modeler sooner than I made it if he had gotten his way. Al Biggs, who was now a Supervisor, said that he thought highly of me as a modeler and a leader. Now that was a stunner. I owed Biggs an apology.
Even Peales witnesses who did testify against Purnell and me helped us by getting caught in big, fat, stupid lies and showing their true colors.
A heated dispute between Martin and me over Martins refusal to challenge Arceris statement that I chose to go into math modeling got me so upset that I had to go home. Delikta followed Arceri. I heard the rest of Arceris testimony and all of Deliktas on tape. Delikta said that he gave me an E for 2000 because I was a lackluster performer. He bobble Dales question of why he gave me an O for 96.
I was on hand the next day to see Botruff stuff all ten of his toes in his mouth with his crisp, commanding testimony that didnt compute and his admitted ignorance of positive things about me he should have known. An example he gave of my inferior work was the door handle pocket. He said that when it went into IDEAS it didnt stitch. He didnt say that he put it into IDEAS without my okay and I was working on it when I had my heart attack. He didnt say the IDEAS was a pile of doo-doo that Ford was about to scrap.
Peale and his sidekick made a series of tactical blunders when they tried to catch me in inconsistent statements. They pulled out a copy of the combined promotion list, which proved Ford lied to the EEOC and Judge Freedman. They pulled out the letter I wrote to William Clay Ford, Jr., which proved that Carol Murdocks stunt with the deadwood package on the anniversary date of my first layoff was deliberate harassment and racially based. They pulled out one of Martins copies of my Maxie Cason letter with the wrong date on it. I explained what happened and Roscoe, to my surprise, said something to the effect that he had a word processing program that did the same thing. In retrospect I think Roscoe was trying to give Peale a subtle hint that he was screwing up.
Peales worst blunder was putting Frank DeBono in the witness seat. Frank did everything Purnell said he would do. He sounded like a racist. I never believed he was, but thats how he sounded. Peales only argument in defense of Fords failure to recognize any black modeler in its top 20% of modelers is that no black modeler ever performed that well. He sounded like a racist, too.
Roscoe closed the hearing in time for him to get back to his family for the weekend. He said that it was going to be a difficult decision. From that statement alone, I expected what I thought would be the worst. Three months later we got worse than I expected. Roscoe ruled against Ford. He awarded Purnell $54,000 in back pay. I got $1,622.15 in back pay and $10,000 in compensatory damages for emotional impact.
What happened to me after that is a horror story that hasnt ended. Ford denied my medial retirement and sent me information packages with threats that I could be fired without retirement benefits if I did not return to work which my doctors agreed would probably kill me. Fords doctor said I was fine. Social Security denied my Social Security benefit. Omni-Care didnt start paying me until November 2002. As of this date, January 21, 2004, I am still on medical leave and Ford still refuses to give me a medical retirement.
The facts remains, we won our case but our fight to the death is not over because the system is still alive and so am I. The powers that be at Ford must have expected me to be dead by now. I hope I live a long time just to piss them off.