Assembly Line Workers: Peculiarities Of Job

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Table of contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Field Analysis
  3. Work Environment
  4. Job Outlook
  5. Organizations
  6. Education and Skills
  7. Controversies of the Field

Many high schools students are unsure of what careers they want to do after high school. Many jobs today require a degree however there are plenty of jobs for those do not want to go to college, the assembly line worker being one of them. Beginning in 1913, the assembly line worker has been one of the most available jobs in America and essentially created the American middle class. This paper will provide an intro in to the field as well as a field analysis and an overview of the work environment. It will include an interview with Edward Zabrzenski, an employee of the Ford River Rouge Plant for 24 years, as he describes the benefits of working as an assembly line worker. The paper will also look at the Bureau of Labor Statistics outlook of the job field, the educational requirements and the controversies of the field, including the impact of the UAW General Motors strike. Through this paper high school students can better understand one of America’s most popular blue collar jobs.

On October 7th, 1913 the moving assembly line was developed for the Ford Model T at the Highland Parks Ford Plant. The assembly line process cut the production time of a Model T to an incredible 93 minutes, dividing production into 45 steps. In 2018 the United States auto industry made up approximately 2.7% of the United States gross domestic product (Amadeo, 2019). Behind every giant corporation is the assembly line workers that make up the backbone of each company. These blue collar Americans work tirerestly to provide each auto corporation its quota of vehicles which in turn are sold to the customers. However, like the auto industry, the assembly line workers job and duty is ever changing. Automation, the process of replacing workers with robots, has reduced user error and allowed one robot to complete the job of multiply workers. With the technological explosion happening right now, automation will only continue to take over more of the auto industry and affect more of its workers. Another change in the auto industry is a surge in the development, research, and sale of electric vehicles. The surge of electric vehicles will help create thousands if not millions of jobs for the auto industry, but assembly line worker will need to be trained on how to build electric vehicles on the assembly line. This research paper will examine the job of assembly line workers, their duties, and the controversies of their job fields. By finding out more about this blue collar job field high school students will better be able to learn about the auto industry and the assembly line workers that work there.

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The auto industry is a worldwide industry. The Big Three of the automotive industry, Ford, Chrysler, and General Motors, employ thousands of workers in the United States. They have operations and assembly plants around the world The Ford Motor Company operates more than 65 plants throughout the United States, and operates around the world, including the United Kingdom, Germany and Brazil. General Motors currently employs 180,000 people worldwide. Finally Chrysler has 36 manufacturing plants which includes twenty two in the United States, seven in Mexico, six in Canada, and one in Venezuela (Fiat Chrysler Automotive, 2018).

Field Analysis

An automotive assembly line worker help to assemble a mass produced vehicle. The vehicle moves down an assembly line with each worker assembling the part they are responsible. Assembly line workers operate as one small part in a large team. Assembly line worker must be able to do repetitive work for long periods of time at a fixed rate of speed while remaining focused on the job to minimize mistakes. Assembly line workers must also have a keen sense of detail, as each worker must ensure that they have accurately done their job in order to send the vehicle to the next stage in assembly.

Work Environment

Ford assembly plants currently run a three different shifts. The A,B, and C crews all work the same job but work at different hours including day, afternoon, and night shifts. Employees of the day shift at the Ford Rouge Complex in Dearborn, Michigan work 4 days a week, 6 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The General Motors plant in Wentzville, Missouri runs 3 shifts for 24 hours a day, 6 days a week. The shifts work 6:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., 2:30p.m. to 10:30 p.m., and 10:30p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Each company and assembly plant runs different shifts for different amounts of time depending on each plant’s products and the size of the plant.

The work environment tends to be fast paced as each vehicle needs to be mass produced to reach the assembly plant’s quota. Most assembly line workers work in manufacturing plants, however the work conditions vary by both plant and industries. The job of an assembly plant worker can be physically demanding. Physical tasks including the tightening of bolt or moving large and heavy parts into place. However, many of these physically demanding tasks have been made easier due to many of the more demanding tasks being automated or through the use of power tools. Auto assembly jobs still involves long periods of standing and some jobs in the assembly line may require workers to walk up and down the line.

Automotive assembly line workers enjoy a multitude of benefits. For example assembly plant workers at Ford enjoy cash bonuses, shares in company stocks, and profit sharing. Profit sharing is the system by which employees of a company receive a direct share in the profits. Each employee's share is based on their job title and the amount of hours worked. In 2018 Ford reported to have made $7.6 million pretax in North America, which would result in the $7,600 profit sharing checks for the company’s nearly 56,000 hourly UAW workers (Howard, 2019). General Motors and Ford share the same profit sharing system in which each employee receives $1,000 for every billion the company makes. At General Motor assembly plants, workers must be a full time permanent GM UAW employee at the end of the year. For workers to receive the full amount of their profit sharing check they must log 1,850 compensated hours during the year (LaReau, 2019). Another benefit assembly line workers enjoy is good health insurance. According to Edward Zabrzenski, an employee of the Ford River Rouge Plant for 24 years, the health insurance that workers of the assembly line receive includes health care coverage, vision insurance, and dental care plans. Hourly workers of Ford also only have to pay 3% of their health care costs. Mr. Zabrzenski continued to say that the new agreement between the UAW and Ford will now allow workers to have raises every other year, starting this year.

Job Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the United States has approximately 1,868,100 assembly line workers as of 2018. The Bureau also states that the outlook of the job field will decline by approximately 11%, leading to a loss of about 200,000 jobs. The main cause of job decline would be the automation of the industry, which would allow more jobs to be done at a faster and more consistent pace. In addition, new advances in robotics has enabled machinery to complete more complex tasks, once thought to have been done by only humans. Additionally with General Motors and Fords sales declining in China both countries may look to move factories down to Mexico to utilize the abundance of cheap labor. Finally, advancements in three dimensional printing is now allowing entire parts or vehicles to be made in a single build that would require little assembly. However this technology is still in its infancy and may take many years to have a significant impact on the automotive industry (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018).


Assembly line workers from Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler all belong to the UAW, otherwise known as the United Auto Workers. The UAW currently has 400,000 active members along with more than 600 local unions (UAW, 2015). The UAW continues to represent assembly line workers during contract negotiations. The UAW fights for fair wages and improved working conditions.

Education and Skills

Most workers receive on the job training. A GED is only needed to work on the assembly line. Workers should be able to understand basic english and math. However, associates degrees or skilled trades degrees may be needed for more advanced jobs. The two most common ways of applying for a skilled trades apprenticeship at Ford is through either Ford and the UAW or through the U.S. Department of Labor. Department of Labor apprenticeships are paid programs meaning that apprentices will be paid and get trained. Once accepted into skilled trade programs apprentices should expect a minimum of 144 hours of classroom training and approximately 2,000 hours of on the job training. The Ford-UAW apprenticeship program provides current employees the opportunity of learning skilled trades such as electrical, mechanical, and welding. The Ford-UAW apprenticeship program involves almost 600 hours of classroom instruction and approximately 7,400 hours of on the job training. Apprentices are trained with a journeyman which includes hands on training. Once training is complete apprentices become journeymen themselves (Kraft, 2018).

Controversies of the Field

The most controversial topic involving assembly line workers is the contract disputes between the UAW and General Motors. After rejecting a contract from General Motors, UAW and hundreds of its General Motors hourly works went on strike at 11:59 PM on September 16, 2019. General Motors claimed to have made a strong offer which was said to have been a $7 billion investment and would include the addition of 5,000 jobs, higher pay, and improved benefits. However, the UAW said GM’s contract failed to address key issues including health care, temporary workers, and the integration of temporary workers into permanent hourly employees. The strikes cost GM nearly $2 billion in lost production and employees nearly $1 billion in lost wages. On October 16th GM and the UAW agreed on a new labour contract that could end the month long strike by 48,000 workers. The new contract was ratified by UAW members on October 25th, ending the strike. GM also agreed to lift the $12,000 cap on their profit sharing system. With the new contract ratified workers are now guaranteed a 3 percent pay and a 4 percent lump sum increase in alternating years. Also GM’s Hamtramck plant was originally set to close before the strikes began. However, the plant will now stay open and build electric trucks and vans. General Motors is reportedly investing $3 billion into the plant and would create approximately 2,000 jobs. Finally, temporary workers now have system to become permanent employees after 3 years on the job. However, negotiations between the UAW and General Motors were unable to get to move car production from Mexico in a plant in Lordstown, Ohio. General Motors was agreed to build a battery factory near Lordstown, however the battery factory would employ non union workers who can be paid lower wages.

Throughout this paper we have examined the job of an assembly line worker. Throughout the years the automotive industry has become more technologically advanced but the job itself has remained relatively the same for over a century. Like many jobs today this one is becoming increasingly technologically advanced including the automation of the industry. The automation of the industry as well as advancements in electric vehicles will forever change the industry. However, one thing is for sure, the assembly line worker will always be the pinnacle of blue collar working class America.

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Assembly Line Workers: Peculiarities Of Job. (2022, February 17). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 14, 2024, from
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