UAW president calls for automakers to close plants due to coronavirus (COVID-19)

Ford, GM and FCA still making vehicles

DETROIT – The president of the United Auto Workers (UAW) said Tuesday that plants should close amid the coronavirus outbreak.

UPDATE: Ford, GM, FCA to increase social distancing, change shift schedules in plants during coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak

President Rory Gamble said union leadership asked Ford, GM and FCA for a two-week shutdown of operations to safeguard members from the coronavirus outbreak.

The three automotive companies have kept production going at American facilities amid the crisis, only allowing workers who can work from home do so. That of course means production line workers have remained on the job.

Workers are close to each other in the factories, and employees are upset they are still on the job despite numerous other businesses and gathering places closing.

The issue is expected to come up during a conference call Tuesday evening.


Here is the letter from Gamble, which states the automakers “were not willing to implement this request.” Gamble writes that “these companies will be put on notice that the UAW will use any and all measures to protect our brothers and sisters who are working in their facilities." Read here:

Brothers and Sisters,

I’m going to get right to the point. I want you to know exactly where we are with our discussions with the Big 3 leadership and protecting our members and their facilities during this international crisis.

I announced this past Sunday that the International UAW had formed a COVID-19/Coronavirus task force with GM, Ford and FCA to implement enhanced protections for manufacturing and warehouse employees at all three companies.

I want to be very transparent about what happened during our conversation Sunday with the Big 3. The UAW leadership, based on the World Health Organization (WHO) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations on how to protect ourselves and our communities, requested a two-week shutdown of operations to safeguard our members, our families and our communities. Your UAW leadership feels very strongly, and argued very strongly, that this is the most responsible course of action.

The companies, however, were not willing to implement this request. They asked for 48 hours to put together plans to safeguard workers in their facilities. (Ford Motor Company has indicated this week that they are willing to rotate down shifts and are planning to shut down all European operations next week.)

The 48-hour window is up this afternoon. 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.

These companies will be put on notice that the UAW will use any and all measures to protect our brothers and sisters who are working in their facilities. And make no mistake, we have powerful allies who have stepped up to help us. Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, despite what you might have heard in some recent erroneous reports, was instrumental in assisting us in bringing the Big 3 to the table, as was U.S. Representative Debbie Dingell.

I know these are very difficult days for all of us. Please know that my #1 priority, and the #1 priority of the entire UAW leadership, is the safety and well-being of our UAW family and our communities.

I will be sending another update very soon on what we see from the Big 3 today.

I’d like to ask that we all remember that we are all in this together.

In Solidarity,


The CDC recommends that people avoid gatherings of 10 or more people. The Michigan governor issued an order Monday that bans all indoor events that have more than 50 people. Health officials are urging people to stay home to help stop the spread of the virus.


About the Authors: