“Most of the people here think that the plant should be decommissioned”
Corona conditions in Ford pickup assembly in Dearborn, Michigan
By Tim Rivers and George Kirby
7. August 2020
Read the call of the security committee in truck-Work Ford-River-Rouge: „Stop the virus, save lives“! Sit down with that Auto workers newsletter in connection (see below) or write an email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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As part of the campaign for the establishment of independent action and security committees, the Autoworker Newsletter of the World Socialist Web Site with workers of the Ford River Rouge pickup assembly about the murderous back-to-work campaign of the companies. The Dearborn, Michigan plant, where the F-150 pickup is assembled, is considered the flagship company of the Ford Motor Company.
In early March, auto workers responded to the spread of the corona pandemic across factories across the Midwest with several strikes. As a result, the major car manufacturers, including Ford, were forced to close their plants for eight weeks from mid-March to mid-May.
In direct contradiction to automakers’ claims that their factories have safe working conditions, the corona virus continues to spread throughout North America’s industry.
A member of the Occupational Safety Action Committee at the Dearborn pickup facility, which is part of the Ford River Rouge complex west of Detroit, spoke to the on August 3 WSWS Autoworker Newsletter. Among other things, he described the scene when an assembly worker on Volume 2 fell ill. As colleagues observed, he was so sick that he vomited several times in a trash can.
“He almost threw up his head in the trash can,” the worker reported. “Then they let the medical service come.” But after that, the company didn’t stop production to thoroughly clean operations after a potentially dramatic corona outbreak. “There was no cleaning and tape stopping,” the worker said. This is in flagrant violation of official safety regulations, which the United Auto Workers (UAW) union at Ford Motor Company had agreed to and which bears their signature. “So it is 12 cases I know of, ”concluded the worker.
As is well known, dizziness associated with nausea and vomiting are common symptoms of Covid 19 disease. When production resumed in May after the car industry was temporarily shut down, Ford CEO James Hackett commented in the newspaper Detroit Free Press. The Ford boss emphasized the importance of working with state, local, and UAW governments to get production back on track. He said the workers had to “believe” that they were safe. He chose his words carefully, and in particular avoided the statement that the company would create a safe work environment. What mattered was only the appearance of safety. Since then, the board has even abandoned this claim, and many workers are upset about the lack of security.
“They give us three or four masks for each worker every day,” said one mechanic with 10 years of service. “But as far as I know, these masks don’t meet the standard of a surgical mask. They have not been tested. They are not even comparable to the standard N95 masks. They let air in and out on the sides. It is so loud in the assembly hall that we have to scream. And if you don’t understand anything, then of course you get closer than two meters. ”
When a worker tested positive two days after resuming production in mid-May, the day shift stopped working. After a one-hour standoff in which the union tried unsuccessfully to get production back on line, the company sent the whole shift home at half past one in the afternoon. However, there was no 24-hour break for basic cleaning. In fact, neither the company nor the union informed the night shift of the danger.
On the contrary, with the full consent of UAW local group 600, management pressed for a quick check before sending the second shift to work, which started at 6:00 p.m. A similar incident occurred at the Chicago assembly plant around the same time. Although numerous workers in Dearborn, Chicago, Louisville and elsewhere have since tested positive, Ford has never allowed assembly lines to stop production for any reason.
In violation of any occupational safety protocol during the pandemic, a cleaner is brought in to spray the infected area while the assembly line is still running. Instead of slowing down production for security reasons, the company is pushing for maximum production no matter what. “They always blame us,” the worker said.
“In the memo we [vom UAW-Ortsvorsitzenden] received, it explains what is meant by ‘close contact’: These are colleagues who are within 4 meters of the event for 15 minutes, ”he said. “How do you want to find that out? There are jumpers on the assembly line who double the number of jobs if someone is missing. They can work on many different tapes in the company and spread the virus when they get sick. What does that have to do with the 4-meter rule? “
Management pushes every inch of production, creates unbearable conditions, and scapegoats those workers who are not responsible for these conditions.
The worker said: “Like that [UAW-] Chairman mentioned, the union is informed via a hotline if colleagues do not wear the correct personal protective equipment (PPE) … Management also explains that there is no tolerance for workers who do not wear the correct PPE. The union works with the company. ”
Another worker reported the severe work stress and the brutal regime. An alternative shift schedule under constant Covid 19 threat is being enforced. The few security rules that the company introduced in May have now broken down and the pressure has increased so much that it can hardly be endured.
“We work 10.5 or 10.7 hours a day,” he said. “It’s a struggle to wash your hands in between. The company distributes disinfectants, but this is not a substitute and there is no time for washing hands. Long lines form at the sink.
When I’m at home, I try not to touch anything before taking a shower. But even that is a struggle when you are tired, ”he continued. “Then it’s time to eat, sleep, and I’m on my way to work again.”
The corona virus has been shown to spread in water droplets (aerosols) that originate from people speaking, coughing or sneezing. The droplets can remain in the air for a long time and spread out more than one meter. The risk increases in an industrial environment where workers have to raise their voices to be understood. Infection can also occur when virus particles find their way to a worker’s face after touching a contaminated surface.
A worker said she was afraid of catching the virus from the moment she entered the factory. She described the situation in a tent at the gate: “Either you show your questionnaire on your cell phone or you fill out a paper questionnaire on the spot. If you have to write on paper on the spot, “she continued,” then the pens that are provided will never be disinfected. If you answer ‘yes’ to a question, you will be sent home without payment a lot of people will surely answer ‘no’ whether they are sick or not just to keep their jobs. ”
She also described the conditions during the breaks: “We have a lot of temporary workers who have to do everything possible. For example, they jump in during toilet breaks or lunch, “she said.” Removing the mask for eating is inevitable. And when I go to the toilet, it is impossible to keep several meters away. Everyone touches the doors. They are not disinfected. Most people don’t think the situation is safe. That scares me. “
Another colleague described what happened when a mechanic tested positive in late July. “Someone got sick on the engine belt,” she said. “Some workers told me that there was a ribbon around the area where he worked. The work flow was not interrupted. The area is said to have been cleaned. I saw an ambulance but the union never mentioned that. I asked the people who cleaned the break room and the tape what had happened, but nobody knew about it. ”
She continued, “An infected person is known to be contagious for days before showing any symptoms. The measures we use, for example daily fever checks and the use of inferior face masks, are of no use. If someone has a high fever, they may have spread the disease long ago.
When the work started again, the belt speed was initially slow. Now we’re driving at full speed. Up to 650 pickups are manufactured in 10 hours. In one day, we worked 10 hours and 36 minutes to finish the last truck. The security promise [des Unternehmens] is that everyone comes out of the factory without an accident.
In mid-July, a bulletin once said that six workers had tested positive. But there was no information about where they worked or how long they were in the factory. I could not say exactly how many cases there have been because they hide the information. I am sure there are many more. It is the same with reporting by the union. Most of the people here think that the plant should be shut down completely. ”
The woman said, “When we started, it was said that there was a 24-hour cleaning rule when someone got infected. That should take more than 24 hours! But now they are hiding the positive cases so that we can continue to work. The running of the system and occupational safety are two completely different things.
We have controls where the fever knife is broken. The worker who got sick here last could have worked all week and no one would have noticed. It really makes people angry. You are now taking care yourself. “
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