GM In Trouble: Two US Truck Plants See Big Rise In COVID-19 Cases

Two of GM’s US truck plants have seen a big rise in COVID-19 cases, leading to tension inside the plants and with the union. The plants are Arlington Assembly in Texas, and Wentzville Assembly in Missouri. GM builds its midsize pickups and full-size vans at Wentzville. Its redesigned full-size SUVs at assembled at Arlington. The Arlington plant is said to be the most profitable of all its US plants. 

The Detroit Free Press received leaked documents that show there have been 22 confirmed cases at the Arlington plant since late-May. While the Freep was able to confirm the number its source declined to be named. There have been 12 confirmed cases at Wentzville since it reopened in mid-May. This info came from data the Freep got access to. It is GM’s policy not to comment on COVID-19 cases but would confirm production continues.

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The combined COVID-19 cases as of now are 34 which is well below 1%

Workers assembling full-size trucks
Workers assembling trucks | Getty

Between the two plants, there are 9,000 workers. The combined COVID-19 cases as of now are 34 which is well below 1%. “The UAW is watching very carefully how these health and safety factors are impacting different plants and we are in a continual dialogue at all levels,” said UAW spokesman Brian Rothenberg. “Health and safety for all members is our priority.” The union is “constantly in discussions” with the company, Rothenberg said, on ways to enhance protocols. “Protocols can be anything from new testing, new issues that come up regarding the growth of the virus. It’s uncharted territory and we are constantly working through this.”

The problem becomes whether workers are taking the virus home with them. Arlington, in particular, is in an area of Texas hit hard with new cases. For this reason, the UAW is asking GM to close the plant to ward off any possibility of workers bringing it home. GM declined the appeal. The UAW cannot order the closure of a factory. It can only have a dialogue with the manufacturer to come to a point where the manufacturer will do something. 

As the UAW is watching the situation closely, so too is the public

A GM sign is seen at the General Motors Arlington Assembly Plant. | Getty

“Many of the same steps we follow inside our plants can help keep people safe when they’re not working, and that includes staying home if you’re not well, social distancing when you leave home, frequent hand-washing and the use of masks,” said GM spokesman David Barnas to the Freep. GM also performs thorough cleaning of plants on a schedule and in areas that any workers exposed to the virus are in. 

As the UAW is watching the situation closely, so too is the public. There comes a point when the optics of a manufacturer keeping an assembly plant open while new COVID-19 cases shoot up is terrible. The public relations fallout could be huge. It’s not something that GM wants to see. Or be seen doing.