The Fords
Image: Daniel Root


Six members of the Ford family work among the scrap summits of Schnitzer Steel Industries: 64-year-old Chuck Ford (left) started in 1964, and as the plant’s longest-tenured employee, he serves as logistics guru, safety watchdog and all-around answer man.

“Steel has no forgiveness,” Ford says. “If you make a mistake, it’s going to hurt you.” But steel’s also been good to Ford. So good, he’s recruited nearly his entire family to Schnitzer, including his 38-year-old son Heath (right), who joined his dad on the scrap piles in 1987 and now oversees the company’s steel shredder. The other Fords focus on crane operation, yard management and cleanup. Heath’s 15-year-old son, Charley, will likely become the next Ford to punch the Schnitzer clock. “He’s got his grandpa’s love of equipment,” Chuck says. Like most old-timers at the city’s heavy-industry firms, Chuck bemoans the sense of entitlement some of today’s applicants bring to the job. “They don’t feel they owe it to the company to do an honest day’s work,” he says. “They think that we owe them something for being here. In just a few days, you can tell when you’ve found a good one.” Someone who’s exceptionally rare these day: a lifer.