Some auto workers at an FCA plant walked off the job over coronavirus concerns yesterday, as the Big Three insist on leaving plants open amid a global pandemic, while also leaving some UAW members to wonder out loud why their union wasn’t doing more to protect them. Today, the UAW’s president revealed that the union has asked the Ford, GM, and FCA for a two-week shutdown.
That ask came on Sunday, according to a letter from Rory Gamble, with the automakers asking for 48 hours to plan, time which Gamble says will be up by the end of today:
We will be evaluating what the companies submit today and there will be a meeting this evening at 6 p.m., where the Task Force will review plans for the safety and health of all members, their families and our communities.
I want to be very clear here: If the UAW leadership on the task force, myself and Vice Presidents Cindy Estrada, Terry Dittes and Gerald Kariem, are not satisfied that our members will be protected, we will take this conversation to the next level.
Gamble didn’t say what “the next level” means, but he’s probably referring to the union’s elected allies, who he name-dropped in the next paragraph, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, among other government officials.
It’s also a little unclear why Gamble chose to reveal all of this now, though Ford and GM said today that they each had a salaried employee test positive for coronavirus, which might have factored into Gamble’s thinking. That’s in addition to calls from UAW members for the union to do more, with one UAW Local filing a grievance against Ford over the issue, according to The Detroit News:
UAW Local 600 in Dearborn has filed a grievance against Ford Motor Co. requesting more be done to protect workers. The 20-point grievance requests a two-week work stoppage for employees to self-quarantine, hand sanitizing stations at each workstation and frequent cleaning of restrooms and the cafeteria, according to a copy of the grievance summary obtained by The Detroit News. Local leaders did not immediately respond to request for comment.
Ford, GM, and FCA have all said in response that they were essentially going to sanitize everything a little bit more, as well as limit travel for employees and institute various protocols related to visitors and employees who feel unwell.
But there’s no escaping that people without symptoms can still pass the virus on, and until there’s a vaccine or widespread testing to confirm that employees don’t have the disease it’s unsafe to keep the factories open.
With everything moving so quickly, I’ll be surprised if the factories aren’t shuttered by this time tomorrow, but never underestimate the Big Three’s will to keep them open.