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UAW Local 12 head: 40 employees at Toledo Assembly Complex tested positive for COVID-19

Union leader calling for change amid worker concerns about virus cases
Published: Jul. 14, 2020 at 5:39 PM EDT
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TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - Some workers at the Toledo Assembly Complex are are expressing concerns about their safety because of the COVID-19 crisis. The assembly lines were idled in March because of the pandemic, but workers have been back on the job since mid-May. Union leaders say dozens of people have tested positive for the virus, and they want changes made.

About 40 workers at the Toledo plants have tested positive for the virus. That’s according to UAW Local 12 president Bruce Baumhower.

“It is very tense inside the plants right now. Our members are upset and scared and rightfully so in my view,” said Baumhower.

Baumhower says when the lines first started running again there were some great safety measures in place. Many of them were developed by skilled trades workers at the Toledo Assembly Complex. He doesn’t believe all the proper safety measures are still in place. And when it comes to testing the workforce for the virus, he wants it available to everyone.

“They are not offering testing. We have said from day one there needs to be testing for everyone, and anyone who wants it should get it. They have refused to do that.”

Baumhower says despite the challenges they say they face, the employees love what they do.

"They have a tremendous amount of pride, but they also want to go home safe to their families every night."

If changes aren’t made, Baumhower says the workforce could walk out. “You know we’ve got a lot of safety concerns and we can strike over safety . It may come to that if the company doesn’t turn thing around.”

However, Baumhower is hopeful it doesn’t come to that. “We’ll get this turned around. We’ll either get through with the company or we’ll be fighting the company. They have to decide which they want,' he said.

FCA released a statement about the pandemic and its workforce.

“FCA continues to make the health and safety of its employees a top priority. Since restarting our operations, we have not had any spread of the virus in our plants. Any suggestion to the contrary is completely untrue. Even as local economies have started to reopen, our comprehensive, multi-layered program of safety measures remains in place inside our facilities to protect our employees. Where we have had an employee test positive, social distancing, mandatory use of personal protection equipment, and cleaning and disinfecting have been in full use. We also have been aggressive in following recommended guidelines for contact tracing to prevent the spread and transmission, which may require people to stay home out of an abundance of caution. We continue to monitor the situation to ensure that we are taking every precaution to protect our employees, their families and our communities.”

FCA and the UAW also released a letter addressed to employees ahead of the July 4th holiday weekend outlining recommended measures for staying healthy during the pandemic. The text of the letter is as follows:

Dear UAW-FCA Colleagues:

Our nation has faced unprecedented challenges and heartache as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. As we work together through this crisis, we want to extend our sincere gratitude to our employees and UAW members whose hard work and courage, from the first days of this crisis to the joint efforts to ready FCA facilities for re-start last month, has truly been inspiring.

This pandemic has presented us with challenges we never thought we would have to face, either at work or at home. Together, we have risen to those challenges to keep one another safe. As we move forward in our re-opened economy, the health and safety of our FCA UAW family remains — as always — our top priority.

In fact, now more than ever, we must continue to be vigilant. We must all follow the required health and safety protocols at our worksite, including the mandatory use of personal protection equipment. Just as important, we must take appropriate precautions while at home and in our communities.

To prevent the spread and transmission of this disease, we urge you to remember to:

• Avoid close contact with people who are or may be sick.

• Follow protocols not only in the plant, but in the parking lots and while in public.

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

• Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

• As much as possible, practice social distancing, staying six feet apart from others.

• Try to minimize non-essential trips outside the home.

This is also an opportunity to remind you, for your sake and for the safety of those you work with, not to come to work if you are sick and to truthfully complete the screening questionnaire every day. Coming to work when you’re not feeling well or falsifying health information puts others at risk and compromises the safe work environments we are striving to create.

We continue to work together as part of the Detroit 3 Task Force to keep our UAW members, our families and our communities safe. Both the UAW and FCA are committed to implementing enhanced protections as they become available and will remain vigilant in monitoring this complex set of circumstances.

Thank you for your hard work, your dedication and your continued commitment to working together to stay safe. As we head into the July 4th holiday weekend, let’s all remember to do our part. Stay safe as we celebrate our nation at home or away, to protect our workplaces, our families and our communities from this disease.

Joint Letter from UAW President Rory L. Gamble and FCA CEO Michael Manley

Copyright 2020 WTVG. All rights reserved.

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