From a flicker of an idea to a flame of unity, #OrangeTuesday shines on Ford’s cultural diversity
As protests erupted across the country at the end of May, Ford employees began championing the cause for social and racial justice by wearing orange. #OrangeTuesday, which honors Ford’s cultural diversity and racial harmony, stemmed from one employee’s desire to show respect and tolerance for all races.
Sheila Church, Louisville Assembly Plant new model launch coordinator for chassis, was watching the news one night and decided she needed to do something to show her support. “As a retired law enforcement officer, I wanted to be a part of the solution,” said Church. She did some research and determined that the color orange best represented racial harmony. The following day, a Tuesday, Church wore orange and shared her idea of showing support for all races with her coworkers.
Wanting to expand upon her message that anyone wearing orange embraces cultural diversity, Church approached Cynthia Goldsberry, regional cultural manager, about the possibility of getting orange shirts made to wear on Tuesdays. Goldsberry loved the idea, noting it was “heartfelt” and “something that everyone could participate in as a gesture of unity.” Orange stands for cultural diversity and racial harmony, she said, and is a big bright color that will certainly get noticed.
“When you see a mass of people wearing orange, it will definitely start the dialogues,” said Goldsberry. She introduced the idea to other plants in the Bobnar region, including Kentucky Truck Plant, Ohio Assembly Plant and Woodhaven Stamping Plant. After Goldsberry shared the concept with other managers, it took off in plants throughout the manufacturing system.
According to Natalie Popovski, Dearborn Truck Plant communications coach, the plant prides itself on diversity and multiculturalism and strives to amplify the voice of every member of the team. “Dearborn Truck Plant wanted to join its fellow plants with #OrangeTuesday to acknowledge the civil unrest and current climate in our nation,” said Popovski. “We stand by our employees and our community. By showing support for #OrangeTuesday, we hope to spread the message of respect, acceptance and courage far beyond our plant.”
Angela Griffin, Flat Rock Assembly Plant salaried labor representative, said, “For us, it’s a way to try and bring people together and give them something to rally around. We need to try to band together right now, and wearing orange is a simple way to do it.” Walter Robinson Jr., UAW quality representative at Michigan Assembly Plant, concurs. “#OrangeTuesday, to me, is a visual representation of solidarity,” he said. “With the climate of the country and the world at this time, we need a point that we can all agree on. We all need to speak truth to move forward.”
For Karen Mills and Ryan Wheeler, Kentucky Truck Plant assistant plant managers, “#OrangeTuesday is a way for our team to visually acknowledge and honor the diversity within the plant. Positive change comes from actions, not just words, and we support all measures that help increase the understanding and importance of diversity and inclusion among our workforce.”
Lima Engine Plant has seen participation from both salaried and hourly employees. Louis Jennings, UAW Local 1219 employee resource coordinator, believes it’s a great way to bring employees together for a common cause. “Diversity and inclusion in the workplace is important to so many of us, and #OrangeTuesday gives us an opportunity to showcase that unity,” said Jennings. “We have all been through difficult times over the past few months and many families are struggling right now. I’m encouraged to see so many get involved in this initiative to bring people together and offer hope.”
What stemmed from one person’s desire to show respect and tolerance for all has turned into a national symbol of harmony at Ford’s U.S. manufacturing plants. Church is thrilled by the response. “I am proud to know that so many people within Ford Motor Company took my small idea to promote racial harmony and turned it into a huge deal,” she said.
[Church, a native of Akron, Ohio, has one adult son. She has been with Ford for 14 years, but she grew up with Ford because her stepfather was a 45-year employee. Her husband, David Church Jr., is a third-generation employee. When asked why she feels it is important to support cultural diversity and racial harmony, Church said, “We are all human beings and our race shouldn’t segregate us from one another. I became a law enforcement officer to protect and serve the public no matter their race, gender, socioeconomic status, religious views, etc. I treated everyone with respect no matter what their beliefs, skin color, political views, religion, etc.” Church wants people to know that there are good law enforcement officers out there who feel as strongly as she does about racial harmony.]