WARREN, Mich. – Detroit’s big three automakers -- Ford, General Motors and Fiat Chrysler, announced Wednesday that they will shut down plants due to coronavirus concerns.
The trio has closed plants at least through March 30 so the facilities can be cleaned and sanitized.
GM and FCA both said in statements that they would progressively shut down the plants.
Officials with the United Auto Workers’ union have been pressing for plant closures for nearly a week. Line workers were getting angrier by the day, and Local 4 has heard about many cases of absenteeism as the number of cases has grown.
On Wednesday, the mounting pressure reached a breaking point, and the companies decided to officially close the plants.
A worker got sick Wednesday morning at the Ford Truck Assembly Plant in Dearborn, and another tested positive for coronavirus. Ford closed the plant to clean and disinfect.
FCA suspended production at its Sterling Heights Assembly Plant after it was announced Tuesday that an employee at the plant tested positive for coronavirus.
As word spread, the situation became unsettled on the lines through all the plants. Finally, by early Wednesday afternoon, the UAW-Domestic Three Task Force came to the conclusion it was time to shutter plants in order to start the cleaning and disinfecting process.
At the Warren Truck Assembly Plant, workers who were told to go home said they were glad to hear it.
“It should have happened a long time ago,” one worker said. “We should never have been in there. We all work in close proximity to each other, and if somebody’s sick and if they sneeze or cough -- we hav ethe fans blowing on all of us, blowing germs on you. It’s not safe.”
“There are about 1,500 people in there,” another worker said. “It just wasn’t safe. We’re all glad to be finished.”
“UAW members, their families and our communities will benefit from today’s announcement, with the certainty that we are doing all that we can to protect our health and safety during this pandemic.” UAW President Rory Gamble said in a statement. “This will give us time to review best practices and to prevent the spread of this disease."
Although March 30 has been listed as the possible reopening date, Local 4 has been told General Motors will reassess the situation on a weekly basis at that point.