If the recession and subsequent high employment proves anything, it's this: The scarcity of jobs hasn't made workers any smarter. Rick Sanchez is a good example. The former CNN anchor was fired Friday for making disparaging remarks about comedian Jon Stewart and his own network, proving, perhaps, that Stewart was right to make Sanchez the butt of many jokes on The Daily Show.

Sanchez, however, wasn't the only person this past week to lose his job for not thinking before acting. In Detroit last Monday, 13 autoworkers were fired for drinking beer and apparently smoking marijuana during their shifts at Chrysler Group's Jefferson North plant, which builds the new Jeep Grand Cherokee SUV.

The employees actions were caught on tape by WJBK Fox 2 News, which was investigating the workers' activities after receiving a tip about them. Upon seeing the video, shot at a nearby park and provided to company officials before it was publicly aired, Chrysler management moved swiftly, suspending 15 workers immediately without pay.

'Totally Unacceptable'

Chrysler Senior Vice President of Manufacturing Scott Gargerding said he found the video disturbing and that management took the evidence seriously. "For us, this behavior is totally unacceptable," Gargerding said, adding that the employees' actions painted a bad picture of an otherwise outstanding assembly plant. Within days of being suspended, all but two of the workers were fired.

The workers' actions were embarrassing for Chrysler in several ways. Not only is the company a recipient of taxpayer funded bailout money, but the incident comes just weeks after President Obama visited the plant, praising the shared sacrifice made by all those involved in salvaging Chrysler -- including workers -- to help rebuild America's beleaguered manufacturing sector.

Given the scarcity of factory jobs and Michigan's high 13.1% unemployment rate (surpassed in August only by hard-hit Nevada), it's unclear what the workers were thinking. In its response to the matter, the United Auto Workers union disparaged the employees' actions for jeopardizing the health and safety of all workers, while acknowledging that "unfortunately these behaviors exist in our society."

Safety First

Alcohol and drug abuse is a disease that doesn't get left at home when workers show up for work each day, says John Challenger, CEO of workplace consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas. For that reason, he says, "Companies are inevitably made aware of situations of [substance] abuse that affect performance or, even worse, affect safety."

Indeed, employee safety is one reason many companies, including Chrysler, have adopted zero-tolerance policies toward drug and alcohol use on the job. Most large firms offer employee assistance programs for their workers that include ways to help employees quit drinking or using drugs to prevent incidents that may lead to punitive action or job loss.

Presented with video-tape evidence of employee drug use on the job, however, Chrysler management had few options other than to fire the workers. That may seem severe, but assembly line work can be hazardous and safety is utmost, Challenger says. "The company had to stand behind its rules."

Bottom line: Corporate policies can do much to improve and maintain workers' health and safety, but it's up to employees to follow them -- or risk showing up the next day not for work but on the unemployment line.

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48 Comments

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Judy & Garry

Yes, let's just all trash the US workers. Don't think that you are not going to pay. Do you think that two classes, rich and poor, will make the US great>

October 04 2010 at 4:34 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Judy & Garry

Until we all understand that this is now a "Global" economy, we are moths fluttering about a flame Use common sense. A "Global" economy does not bode well for the standard of living for working class Americans. Greed on all levels, including the working class, led us into this mess. Whether we can extricate ourselves remains to be seen. It's true that the rich are getting richer from your labor but they are not all US citizens. Our government has encouraged foreign investment for years, throughtout Democratic and Republican regimes.

October 04 2010 at 4:27 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
HAROLD

As an employer this is becoming the norm . employees coming to work late if at all ,talking on cell phones all day long and acting like they are doing nothing wrong . Think they are worth $30 dollars and hour and then have no clue why we would let them go . You know its all the employers fault .just more reasons I see big business moving over seas . Americans are spoiled and don't no how to work any more .......

October 04 2010 at 4:16 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to HAROLD's comment
themanindbox

30.00 an hour? Where are you located? Ill bust my ass for 30.00 an hour so i can go home to my 500 dollar a month crack house and drive my 1979 ford with no floor. 30.00 an hour in my area of the country will not even get you in section 8 housing... No wonder..

October 13 2010 at 2:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
netexas121

I just saw two county employees today driving agregate material without having tarps rolled over to cover the rocks, that could have shifted out and damaged property. Yes the American workers are slowly becoming more concerned about next cell phone toy or playtime event rather than jobs, at taxpayers expense.

October 04 2010 at 3:38 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
agon10421

NO WONDER MY GM TRUCK TRANSMISSION BLEW OUT AT 37000 MILES A BUNCH OF DOPERS ON THE ASSEMBLY LINE. IM SURE TOYOTA IS LOVING THIS. I GUESS ILL RIDE MY BIKE TO THE BUS STOP . THESE WORKERS DIDNT APPRECIATE HAVING A JOB HOMELESSNESS IN THIER FUTURE. IF ANY F THEM HAD KIDS SHAME ON THEM

October 04 2010 at 3:37 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to agon10421's comment
themanindbox

No your tranny blew at 37K miles because it is a GM china part.. Not because american stoners built it. Because 11 yr old childeren who make .50cents a day built it. Geeze get your facts right!

October 13 2010 at 2:58 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
george3373

This example is about a well known activity in numerous auto plants. To act surprised is disengenuous and the union is at the core. For years they have fought firing those who broke this policy they only supprted this one because it was taped on TV.

October 04 2010 at 3:33 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
Iselin007

Boo Halloween will seem smart as the real scare by unemployment turns in to a monster of non fiction!

October 04 2010 at 3:12 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
Iselin007

As people fall off unemployment an remain out of work the Great Depression will spark an immediate failure of the banking system an businesses will begin a boost in layoffs an closings never before seen. World wide the shock will be felt an smart won't even register as riots become instantaneous!

October 04 2010 at 3:10 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Iselin007's comment
themanindbox

Unlikely since there is nothing made here, so the only ones to really suffer have so much money they will never feel a thing..

October 13 2010 at 3:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
llwlknsn

This is another attempt to belittle American workers because a few people never should have gotten a job in the first place, union or not. It ranks right up there with the obligatory worker story that HR likes to pass around called someone took a stack of posted notes. It is petty and ridiculous. Write stories about how CEOs still take home pay that is obscene and how HR fires people for taking care of their families. Workers are working smarter because they still have jobs. That does not mean that their bosses are letting them make improvements to the work process in order to glean a little more time off to take care of their families. As for Rick Sanchez. He is in a category all by himself. Spoiled and deluded he talked himself right out of a job. Somewhat ironic for a news anchor.

October 04 2010 at 2:54 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
drbuckles

The Republicans came out with A Pledge to America, as a new governing agenda, built by listening to the American people that offers a new way forward. Who wrote the plan, Brian Wilde, a lobbyist for AIG? Why do you need a lobbyist to ask questions for the public? Upon asking the public what would help with jobs, they responded to a change in trade laws, but there was no reply in the plan to that because they have none, it’s business as usual. So I checked to see what the Democrats plan for jobs is. It, according to my paper, stated that they would stop giving tax breaks to corporations for leaving the US and give tax breaks to corporations that come back to our shores. However, the Republicans decided to vote against this bill, adhering to their party of no status because they don’t care if you have jobs or not as long as they can kill the economy for political gain.

October 04 2010 at 2:52 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
4 replies to drbuckles's comment