By TIM ROWDEN
Wentzville, MO – When Glenn Kage, president of UAW Local 2250, woke up Monday morning, May 8, he had one member who had tested positive for COVID-19 at the General Motors Assembly plant here. By the time he went to bed Wednesday evening, that number had grown to five.
GM has declined the union’s request to shut down the plant for 14 days for a deep cleaning.
“Our unit chairman requested a 14-day pause on production so we could do a deep cleaning and they denied his request,” Kage said. “They’re continuing to build trucks and vans as fast as they can on three shifts.”
Wentzville is one of GM’s key plants. UAW workers there assemble the profitable Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon midsize pickups, as well as the Chevy Express and GMC Savana full-size vans.
GM made some changes to improve safety protocols to protect workers and trace whether there has been any spread of coronavirus, Kage said, but he remains concerned.
When workers come through the door, Kage said, “They’re asked the CDC questions about if you’ve been sick, had contact with someone who’s sick, if you’ve traveled. They do a temperature check and give them a new surgical mask as they come through the door. Outside of that, they’re still working side-by-side on the conveyor building trucks and vans.”
Kage said three of the people who tested positive for coronavirus all worked in the same area.
“Three of them were in a very close area. Two of them, we’re told, weren’t in that same area. GM is playing their cards close to their chest, citing the HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) laws, and not giving us any more information, so beyond that we don’t know who they are and can’t get any more details,” he said.
GM employs about 4,100 total workers at the Wentzville plant.
While the number of workers who have tested positive for coronavirus is not large, Kage said, “Five is more than you want to have; one is more than you want to have. We haven’t had any since then, but we grew five times in three days. I’m worried that we’re going to have more.
“We’ll monitor everything to the best of our ability and keep our members informed of the information as we receive it,” he said. “As always, our goal is to protect the safety of our members. If it gets serious, 20 or more, GM is going to have to make a serious decision on where they stand.”