Workers at Sterling Heights assembly plant fear COVID-19 spreading again

Posted at 6:13 PM, Nov 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-13 18:33:06-05

(WXYZ) — The alarming rise in COVID-19 cases in Michigan could be spreading inside auto assembly plants.

Workers inside the Fiat Chrysler Sterling Heights Assembly Plant walked out in the spring before all the auto plants shut down and were fitted with COVID safety protocols. Some of those workers are threatening a walkout again and are talking only if we don’t use their names. They are afraid of losing their jobs for speaking out.

“We’re in here fearing for our lives,” one told 7 Action News.

Another talked about the rising cases with a second wave saying, “Those numbers are really high. Probably more, higher than the first time.”

The workers are sharing their concerns and options on a closed Facebook page.

After being shut down by the Gov. Gretchen Whitmer earlier this year, the Big 3 safety protocols include temperature checks and answering questions before allowed into a plant. But workers say their concerns go beyond those and say the UAW has not stepped up.

"The union could do more. But I’m not, I don’t know how much they can do,” one worker said.

Another added, “A lot of stewards, a lot of union is sick.”

Workers say they’re stuck, “If you leave now because you’re in contact with someone you won’t get paid unless you’re tested positive.”

Fiat Chrysler gave us this statement:

"At FCA, we have a comprehensive, multi-layered program of health and safety measures. We know that the protocols and processes that have been implemented in our plants are preventing the spread of the virus when employees are at work. While we’ve had employees test positive, we continue to be aggressive in following recommended guidelines for contact tracing, which has indicated that the occurrences we are experiencing are coming from exposure outside of the plants. We continue to encourage our employees to follow the same health and safety measures whenever they are out and about to protect the safe environment we have created inside our plants."

The UAW released this statement:

"We continue to work with the Detroit-3 Task Force to be as aggressive as possible in addressing the COVID 19 virus. The UAW and companies meet daily at both the local and national level to review COVID 19 related data and address issues that are raised.

Plants reflect the communities they are in. We should all have concerns with the recent rise in cases that we see in the community and outside of our workplace.

That is why we also have an aggressive program with the employers to do contact tracing to identify any superspreader situations. Thus far contact tracing with members who report positive cases has not indicated widespread infection in the workplace. It has traced infection to contact outside of the plants. But we are committed to action if there is a plant outbreak.

We remind our members regularly to follow protocols outside the plant and be aware of their surroundings and social situations. We also remind our members that as Covid 19 has outbreaks in the community, it is important to follow protocols and answer work self-questionnaires to help prevent outbreaks at home and the workplace.

If members have concerns about protocols not being followed in the plant they should immediately contact their local union leadership and when the International Union hears of concerns we will work daily at the local level to resolve these issues."