Back to Work in Early May? Not So Fast, Says UAW

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
back to work in early may not so fast says uaw

The domestic auto industry is revving its engines, ready to cautiously punch the accelerator, but something’s standing in its way. That something would be United Auto Workers President Rory Gamble, who on Thursday appealed to companies to put the green flag away and think of their employees instead.

Seeing automakers angling for a production restart in the first week of May, the UAW boss said it was too early to move ahead.

“At this point in time, the UAW does not believe the scientific data is conclusive that it is safe to have our members back in the workplace,” Gamble said in a statement. “We have not done enough testing to really understand the threat our members face.”

As the Detroit Three burn through dough as plants sit idle, a growing number have targeted early- to mid-May as the starting point of a restart, in some cases a phased one. The Detroit Three mainly held back from offering specifics, pending talks with the UAW. However, the trio looked to be moving in the same direction as their foreign competition, with Fiat Chrysler initially aiming for a May 4th return.

According to Reuters, General Motors began asking front-line managers to return to work next week in order to train on new safety protocols, with sources at Ford workers will be called in to prepare plants for production.

“We have not done enough testing to really understand the threat our members face. We want to make sure the scientific data is supportive and every possible health protocols and enhanced protections are in place before UAW members walk into the workplace,” Gamble stated.

“We are in support of [Michigan] Governor Whitmer extending the Stay at Home order. We strongly suggest to our companies in all sectors that an early May date is too soon and too risky to our members, their families and their communities.”

The concentration of Detroit Three facilities in the hard-hit state of Michigan, which has seen the death of several UAW workers spread between the three automakers, seems to have guided Gamble’s hand. Not that things will be business as usual when things do return.

“What we are doing is making sure the people who are going to lead in our plant facilities, and lead period, understand the protocols well enough,” GM’s global head of manufacturing, Gerald Johnson, told Reuters on Thursday. Johnson said returning workers will wear surgical masks and protective glasses, but added that any restart will be “limited and phased.”

The UAW’s statement forced the Detroit Three back a pace. Now, none of the three commit to any fixed return date.

“Ford and the UAW continue working closely on initiatives to keep our workforce safe when we restart our plants,” Ford spokesperson Kelli Felker told the Detroit Free Press. “We are continuing to assess public health conditions, government guidelines and supplier readiness to determine when the time is right to resume production.”

FCA fell in line, too, stating that it “will only restart operations with safe, secure and sanitized workplaces to protect all of our employees.”

North of the border, the situation is a little different. Jerry Dias, head of Canadian autoworkers union Unifor, said Thursday he’s “cautiously optimistic” that Detroit Three plants in that country can come online in early May.

“I’m going to have another call tomorrow with the heads of all of our locals at the auto plants to make sure things are still moving properly,” Dias told Automotive News Canada. “But as of now, we haven’t heard this big outcry saying, ‘Don’t do it, it’s too early.’ We haven’t heard any of that.”

Dias pointed to the differing impacts of the pandemic on both sides of the Detroit River. “The impact that we have had has been significant, but we haven’t had the types of deaths and realities that they’ve had to deal with, especially in Michigan,” he said.

While GM and Ford are, just like in the U.S., loathe to comment on a return date, FCA is said to reopen its Brampton and Windsor, ON assembly plants between May 4th and 18th.

[Image: Fiat Chrysler]

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  • CaddyDaddy CaddyDaddy on Apr 24, 2020

    .. CaddyDaddy has never observed a UAW supported candidate tout or even more propose legislation to tariff foreign made auto parts. GM and the UAW are parasites on the parties they serve. GM primary goal is to make short term profit at the peril of premature major system failures in their products. The UAW feeds off it's membership always blaming the evil rich republicans for their troubles. It has been rinse, wash, repeat for 40 years. Please see GM market share as evidence. CaddyDaddy predicts that UAW will hold automakers for increased pay and health benefits for continued work stoppage in the name of "health and safety".

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    • Lie2me Lie2me on Apr 24, 2020

      @Arthur Dailey Arthur you're right about the pendulum, but it seems the further right one side went the further left the other side had to go to balance the pendulum. What ever happened to moderates who were the majority in the middle? I believe they're still here, but silent because of the shrieking at both ends

  • Jeff S Jeff S on Apr 25, 2020

    Moderates have now been put on the Endangered Species list. Anyone for another round of Lysol--it disinfects the insides.

  • Del My father bought GM cars in the 60's, but in 1971 he gave me a used Datsun (as they were called back then), and I'm now in my 70's and am happy to say that GM has been absent from my entire adult life. This article makes me gladder than ever.
  • TheEndlessEnigma That's right GM, just keep adding to that list of reasons why I will never buy your products. This, I think, becomes reason number 69, right after OnStar-Cannot-Be-Disabled-And-It-Comes-Standard-Whether-Or-Not-You-Want-It and Screw-You-American-Car-Buyer-We-Only-Make-Trucks-And-SUVs.
  • 3SpeedAutomatic Does this not sound and feel like the dawn of ICE automobiles in the early 20th century, but at double or triple speed speed!!There were a bunch of independent car markers by the late 1910’s. By the mid 20’s, we were dropping down to 10 or 15 producers as Henry was slashing the price of the Model T. The Great Depression hit, and we are down to the big three and several independents. For EVs, Tesla bolted out of the gate, the small three are in a mad dash to keep up. Europe was caught flat footed due to the VW scandal. Lucid, Lordstown, & Rivian are scrambling to up production to generate cash. Now the EV leader has taken a page from the Model T and is slashing prices putting the rest of the EV market in a tail spin. Deja vu……
  • Michael Eck With those mods, I wonder if it's tuned...
  • Mike-NB2 I'm not a Jeep guy, but I really, really like the 1978 Jeep Cherokee 4xe concept.