Henry Ford’s control over the city of Detroit originated in his complete dominance of the car world. But his power extended far beyond just the production of cars. Ford not only controlled each and every car that left his River Rouge plant, he also controlled each and every person working in that plant. As we learned through Lefty’s short stint in the Rouge Ford Plant in Book 2, Ford’s reached well into the personal lives to make sure all his employees reflected the correct image that he wanted portrayed.
In Book 2 we get a look into a first hand account of what it was like to be a foreigner trying to fit into Henry Ford’s perfect mold for an employee. It started with his night classes at the Ford English School and the pressing of Ford’s obsessions on others. “Employees should use plenty of soap and water in the home…The most advanced people are the cleanest” (97). Each night Lefty was subjected to a lesson in the new life he was supposed to be living. His old life was no longer good enough. To become an employee in the Ford infrastructure, he needed to adopt the American culture and adopt it immediately. And at the end of the classes, to “graduate” Lefty and all the other immigrants had to not only pass their tests on paper, they also had to pass a home inspection to make sure that all the Ford lessons were being implemented. If these tests and inspections were not passed, there was no job in the Ford plant and another person was brought in.
That was the strength behind Ford’s control–he had a thousand more men waiting to replace the first. A thousand men willing to adopt the life Ford wanted to get that $5 a day. And with this army of replacements Ford could demand what he did and exert his control over the city and its people.