Under pressure from UAW, Detroit automakers agree to shutter U.S. plants

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GM Assembly Plant in Wentzville closing Friday, March 20

AUTO PLANTS ARE SHUTTERING across North American citing concerns for employees who work in close quarters building automobiles COVID-19.

Under pressure from the United Auto Workers, Detroit's Big Three automakers are shutting down their U.S. plants citing concerns for employees who work in close quarters building automobiles and the need to stem the spread of coronavirus COVID-19.

Honda and Toyota are shutting down their North American factories as well.

UAW represents about 150,000 hourly workers at General Motors, Ford and Fiat Chrysler auto plants nationwide, including 4,000 represented by UAW Local 2250 at the GM assembly plant in Wentzville, which is scheduled to end production for an undetermined amount of time starting at the end of second shift Friday, March 20.

The auto makers initially rejected the UAW’s demand to shut assembly lines to help deal with the threat of a rapidly spreading pandemic but were forced to agree to the shutdown under pressure from the UAW, rising numbers of people testing positive for the coronavirus and a worker at a Ford assembly plant in Michigan testing positive for the virus.

UAW President Rory Gamble called the shutdown “the prudent thing to do.”

In Wentzville, UAW Local 2250 President Glenn Kage said in a video message to the Local’s membership, “We will continue to respond to events as they happen with the safety our members and their families at the top of our list. Changes are occurring hourly, and we will continue to update our members with the changes as they develop.”

Kage noted the federal guidelines proposed by the Trump Administration for “social distancing” and crowd sizes have been adjusted from an original number of 250 people to 50 and now 10 or less.

“Observing social distancing in public does no good if our members are subjected to hundreds of co-workers working close proximity,” he said. “Every time they walk through the doors to our plant, they subject not only themselves but their families to the possibility of contracting the virus."

Local 2250 has temporarily suspended all trips, union meetings and events at the Local’s union hall in Wentzville. Though the hall continues to operate at limited capacity, Kage urged members to call rather than come to the hall in person.

GM CEO Mary Barra said the plants will be deep-cleaned and disinfected during the closure, and GM will evaluate the situation “week by week” after March 30.

(This is a developing story. The Labor Tribune will have additional coverage in the March 26 print edition.)

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