Autoworker at Detroit plant tests positive for COVID-19 days before car production set to resume

Autoworker at Detroit plant tests positive for COVID-19 days before car production set to resume
Posted at 8:40 AM, May 14, 2020

  • Fiatt-Chrysler Automobiles has confirmed that at least one worker at one of its Michigan plants tested positvie for COVID-19.
  • A worker at the plant says at least one other worker was sent home after exhibitting symptoms.
  • Work on other products has continued with limited employees during the shutdown, but companies are slated to phase-in production at the plants starting Monday.
  • Some workers are concerned the plants could be the epicenter of future outbreaks.

STERLING HEIGHTS, Mich. — At least one team leader at a Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) assembly plant in Michigan tested positive for COVID-19 just days before auto companies are set to restart production.

Tina, who did not wish to share her last name, says one worker went home Wednesday and says another was sent home on Tuesday from FCA's assembly plant in Sterling Heights, Michigan. However, FCA responded in a statement confirming that only one worker at the plant has tested positive for COVID-19.

The plant was one of the first to shut down at the beginning of the outbreak in March.

Tina says workers at the plant are concerned.

"So now we have 3,000 people coming back. What do you think's going to happen? We're going to have a freakin' outbreak here," she said.

In a letter to workers, FCA said that the worker who tested positive was ahereing to social distancing regulations.

"The person was isolated and quarantined, more importantly our social distancing and personal protection equipment protocols were in full use," the letter read. "Face masks and safety glasses which are now mandatory in our plants, and are issued as people enter, were being worn and this along with the newly installed protective barriers between certain stations on our assembly line illustrated the depth and professionalism of the planning that has been put in place to prepare for the opening of our plants and the protection of our people."

FCA also maintained that it is sanitizing work stations and has other protocols in place to prevent the spread of the virus.

"This is a great opportunity for me to remind you to study in detail the Return to Work information that has been sent to you," the letter read. "Our protocols are designed to provide safety measures at multiple points and on multiple levels. In the case of our colleague at Sterling Heights, her co-workers at the plant were protected by the face masks and eyeglasses we provide each day, protected by the measures created to enforce social distancing and protected by the deep cleaning and sanitization of workstations."

The Big 3 Detroit automakers — GM, Ford and FCA — say they have put extensive safety protocols in place ahead of the phased-in production set to resume on Monday. Some 150,000 autoworkers will be going back on the job in Michigan and other states.

Many United Auto Workers (UAW) union members are calling for testing before they return to work. Top UAW leaders were required to take a COVID-19 test before returning to work at an office building in Southfield, Michigan.

UAW President Rory Gamble wrote to the rank and file that the UAW is an employer and needs to keep workers safe. He also said they've told the Big 3 automakers and other employers the union expects as much testing as possible to be conducted.

In a statement, GM said it would test workers that exhibit symptoms of the virus.

"The testing will be used for employees who arrive to work with symptoms (for example – high temperature at entrance screening). They will be sent to plant medical office for testing – and will be sent home (tests sent to outside lab – 24-48 hours for results)," GM's statement read.

Many workers say they don't want to become new hot spots like meatpacking plants. The Big 3 say they have opened plants in other countries and have kept workers safe.

This story was originally published by Jim Kiertzner on WXYZ in Detroit.