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UAW gives ultimatum to the Big 3: Shut down all auto plants for 2 weeks amid coronavirus outbreak

US auto plants would shut down within a week if border closes, economist says
Posted at 12:55 PM, Mar 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-17 17:20:23-04

(WXYZ) — The United Auto Workers union told members they asked the Big 3 for a two-week shutdown of all auto plants. That's according to a letter from UAW President Rory Gamble that was obtained by 7 Action News.

In the letter, Gamble said he asked the Big 3 for a two-week shutdown to protect members amid the coronavirus outbreak, but that the Big 3 would not shut down. That was on Sunday.

Full coverage: Coronavirus outbreak in Michigan

According to the letter, Gamble said the Big 3 asked for two days to put together plans to safeguard workers.

"The 48-hour window is up this afternoon. We will be evaluating what the companies submit today and there will be a meeting this evening at 6 p.m., where the Task Force will review plans for the safety and health of all members, their families and our communities," the letter reads.

Over the weekend, the UAW and the Big 3 announced a COVID-19 task force for blue collar employees.

UAW President Rory Gamble, GM Chair and CEO Mary Barra, Ford Executive Chair Bill Ford, Ford President and CEO Jim Hackett and FCA CEO Michael Manely will lead the task force.

Others supporting include UAW-GM VP Terry Dittes, UAW-Ford VP Gerald Kariem, UAW-FCA VP Cindy Estrada and the medical stff and labor leadership teams at all three companies.

It's expected that the task force will hold a conference call at 6 p.m. Monday.

"These companies will be put on notice that the UAW will use any and all measures to protect our brothers and sisters who are working in their facilities. And make no mistake, we have powerful allies who have stepped up to help us," Gamble added.

Those include Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, according to Gamble.

"I know these are very difficult days for all of us. Please know that my #1 priority, and the #1 priority of the entire UAW leadership, is the safety and well-being of our UAW family and our communities," he wrote.

Gamble did say that Ford did indicate they were willing to rotate down shifts and planned to shut down European operations next week.

The entire letter is below.

Brothers and Sisters,

I’m going to get right to the point. I want you to know exactly where we are with our discussions with the Big 3 leadership and protecting our members and their facilities during this international crisis.

I announced this past Sunday that the International UAW had formed a COVID-19/Coronavirus task force with GM, Ford and FCA to implement enhanced protections for manufacturing and warehouse employees at all three companies.

I want to be very transparent about what happened during our conversation Sunday with the Big 3. The UAW leadership, based on the World Health Organization (WHO) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations on how to protect ourselves and our communities, requested a two-week shutdown of operations to safeguard our members, our families and our communities. Your UAW leadership feels very strongly, and argued very strongly, that this is the most responsible course of action.

The companies, however, were not willing to implement this request. They asked for 48 hours to put together plans to safeguard workers in their facilities. (Ford Motor Company has indicated this week that they are willing to rotate down shifts and are planning to shut down all European operations next week.)

The 48-hour window is up this afternoon. We will be evaluating what the companies submit today and there will be a meeting this evening at 6 p.m., where the Task Force will review plans for the safety and health of all members, their families and our communities.

I want to be very clear here: If the UAW leadership on the task force, myself and Vice Presidents Cindy Estrada, Terry Dittes and Gerald Kariem, are not satisfied that our members will be protected, we will take this conversation to the next level.

These companies will be put on notice that the UAW will use any and all measures to protect our brothers and sisters who are working in their facilities. And make no mistake, we have powerful allies who have stepped up to help us. Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, despite what you might have heard in some recent erroneous reports, was instrumental in assisting us in bringing the Big 3 to the table, as was U.S. Representative Debbie Dingell.

I know these are very difficult days for all of us. Please know that my #1 priority, and the #1 priority of the entire UAW leadership, is the safety and well-being of our UAW family and our communities.

I will be sending another update very soon on what we see from the Big 3 today.

I’d like to ask that we all remember that we are all in this together.

In Solidarity,

Rory