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Ford truck plant workers to return to assembly line after filing COVID-19 grievance

Ford Motor Company

Workers at Ford Motor Company's Dearborn Truck Plant are expected to return to work on Tuesday, after their local, UAW Local 600, filed a grievance over COVID-19 protocols at the plant.

The grievance was filed after two UAW members showed up for work last week, before learning the results of tests they'd received for COVID-19.  The tests turned out to be positive.  The situation sparked a brief walkout on Wednesday.

The grievance asks Ford to:

- regularly test all workers for COVID-19

- allow an extra 20 minutes for break time because the wearing of masks on the assembly line makes the work more difficult

- shut the plant down for 24 hours for a deep cleaning each time an employee tests positive for COVID-19.

Gary Wolkowicz is a bargaining committeeman with the local. He says without regular testing, Ford's Dearborn plant could become a COVID-19 hot spot, like many of the meat-packing plants across the country.

"You know, the conditions in meat packing plants, with the close contact, people working close together -- it's not that much different than what we have in an auto assembly plant," he says.  

Ford Motor Company takes the temperature of all employees before allowing them in the plant, and also requires workers to complete a symptom checklist. But Wolkowicz says that's not sufficient.

"As everybody knows, with this virus, people can be asymptomatic, have no symptoms, and be contagious to others, or they may not have developed symptoms yet, and be contagious to others," says Wolkowicz.

A Ford spokeswoman did not directly address the grievance, but said worker safety is the top priority for the company, and there are safety protocols in place that were developed on the recommendation of infectious disease experts, and with the cooperation of the UAW's leadership.

Wolkowicz says if Ford does not address the grievance satisfactorily, it will go up the chain of command to the international union.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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