It’s more than a little disappointing to find that GM’s Wentzville, Missouri, assembly plant has seen 20 cases of COVID-19 since mid-May. It is worse to find that GM is not going to shut down the plant located just outside of St. Louis. “If we see a large outbreak in one area then we need to have a serious conversation about what to do to protect our members,” says UAW Local 2250 President Glenn Kage. You’ve got to wonder why GM won’t shut down a plant with 20 COVID-19 cases and growing?
GM was already asked to shutter the plant for 14 days to do a deep cleaning when only five people tested positive. It declined. Once that number climbed to 10 you would think that would be more than a cause for concern. Instead of shutting down GM changed some safety protocols and increased tracing to help track down any spread of the coronavirus.
“GM will always do what’s medically necessary to keep people safe from COVID-19
A GM spokesperson told the Detroit Free Press that the automaker evaluates each plant on a case-by-case basis and that GM will always do what’s medically necessary to keep people safe. GM builds the Chevy Colorado, GMC Sierra, Chevy Express and GMC Savana full-size vans. The facility encompasses more than 5 million square feet of space.
Last week there were no positive cases of the coronavirus. Byt Thursday of this week the number shot up to five. Kage thinks that right now they are in a caution zone. But if the number of positives is 10 or more then that would be a danger zone that can’t be increased. “We’ve asked GM to shut it down and do a deep clean,” Kage said. “We’ve had conversations about it. They’re trying to catch it with temperature monitoring to minimize contamination in the plant.”
Three of the people testing positive for COVID-19 worked in the same area
Three of the people testing positive worked in the same area. The other two are sprinkled around the plant. Workers fear a spread of the virus is imminent. There are over 4,000 people at the plant. GM is aggressively monitoring those who enter the area to keep the virus outside of the plant. Temperatures are taken before anyone can enter the plant. Safety questionnaires are filed daily as well. Climate controls are being altered to keep from using fans that could spread germs. Where the workers eat there are clear plastic dividers between where each person eats.
So far GM has not had to close any of the plants it reopened on May 18. Ford has had a number of line shutdowns from workers testing positive. Some Ford workers are afraid the automaker is not being as vigilant as it was when the plants first opened.
GM spokesperson Jim Cain has stated until there is a vaccine or cures there will be continued positive cases. He said that it is what you do as a company that matters. Kage says the Union and GM need to have discussions now to prepare for the possibility of cases going up. “If we have one case inside the plant it’s dangerous,” said Kage. “Having five in there is five times more dangerous.”