Mask Mandates Dropped By American Automakers, UAW

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

The COVID-19 Joint Task Force comprised of Detroit automakers and the United Auto Workers (UAW) has announced that it will be removing mask mandates for vaccinated employees. After meeting on Monday to discuss changes within state and federal health policies, the group decided masks should be made voluntary items for staffers. They could not get the rule change to coincide with the date the decision was made, however.

Lineworkers will instead be waiting until July 12th to pitch their masks in the trash bin so they can be deposited upon beaches and sea beds around the world. Of course, if a government agency (city, state, or county) wants to uphold old mandates or introduce new ones, the COVID-19 Joint Task Force said it would automatically comply. But that might not matter if employees have already decided to stop observing pandemic protocols.

From the UAW:

The COVID-19 Task Force met Monday, June 28 and reviewed the reports of medical experts, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards to maintain safety as the companies continue to work through the pandemic.

For those fully vaccinated, the wearing of masks will be voluntary. Those who have not been vaccinated will continue to be required to wear a face mask. The Task Force will continue to monitor data carefully and make any adjustments necessary to protect the health and safety of employees.

While the UAW and the companies continue following the protocols that have kept our workplaces safe, we know that one of the best ways to fight this virus is by getting vaccinated. The Task Force continues to encourage everyone to roll up their sleeves and get vaccinated against COVID-19 so that we can protect our sisters and brothers and their families.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has recently started urging fully vaccinated people to continue wearing masks, potentially causing some fresh confusion in what’s been a largely bewildering topic since day one. WHO officials originally stated that COVID-19 was incapable of human transmission while denying the validity of Taiwanese claims to the contrary. It also had to backtrack on claims that temporarily restricting travel with China would have been fruitless.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), stated that people didn’t need to be “walking around with a mask” in March of last year. At the same time, automakers had been tasked by the U.S. government to begin manufacturing personal protective equipment (PPE) and ventilators while we all thought “fifteen days to slow the spread” just meant two weeks. Since then, we’ve seen Fauci confess that he effectively lied to the public to avoid panic buying that might keep healthcare providers from having a sufficient mask supply.

There were also periods where the effectiveness of certain types of masks were called into question and a stint where multiple-masking became all the rage. We learned that the Wuhan lab leak, which was previously being derided across the internet as a ludicrous theory (and there’s been debate over whether social-media giants, in an alleged bid to fight “misinformation” and “disinformation,” removed posts that made legitimate claims of a lab leak. Some even say that such action is censorship. Facebook has since reversed its position on removing claims regarding the lab-leak theory), is now more likely to be considered a likely explanation for what happened. The overall messaging has been so wildly inconsistent that we’d wager almost nobody had a real handle on the situation. This could explain why we’ve seen so many people sitting around in vehicles all by themselves wearing makeshift hazmat suits and losing their minds when someone invades their bubble at the grocery store. Though it doesn’t seem to account for the wild levels of restrictions imposed on the citizenry or the rampant politicization of the virus received (and continues to receive) from all sides.

This places automakers in a precarious position. Having spoken to numerous factory employees over the past year, I already know that many are already bucking mask mandates whenever possible. Some no longer believe in their effectiveness, some are just tired of wearing them in sometimes muggy factory conditions, and the rest don’t see the point post-vaccination PPE.

“A lot of people are just fed up,” stated one General Motors employee asking to remain nameless. “Even though we have protocols in place, few [people] are following them closely anymore.”

A small sampling among Ford employees revealed similar sentiments. Two assembly workers stated that employees have gotten lax in adhering to COVID restrictions over the last six months, adding that there are still employees who take masking very seriously.

“It was different last summer,” explained one. “Plenty of guys complained but we all went along with the new restrictions. Now it’s like 50/50.”

Meanwhile, other brands and businesses operating within the country have already begun scaling back restrictions. After the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued relaxed COVID guidance, Penske Automotive Group, and several other dealer organizations stated they would begin reintroducing mask-less stores wherever possible. Toyota Motor Group followed suit by announcing it was lifting mask mandates at several North American facilities last week.

However, eligibility for ditching the mask is still supposed to require proof of being vaccinated. This causes problems for those who cannot get the shot for religious, ethical, or medical reasons. While you could forge a card, since they’re easily duplicated squares of white paper on 100 card stock, the federal government has said the practice would be illegal. But I honestly doubt companies are going to endlessly check on employees’ medical backgrounds. From the sound of things, they have bigger fish to fry and the management at some facilities has already stopped being a stickler for mask rules.

[Image: Mr.Jinda Lungloan/Shutterstock]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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4 of 74 comments
  • Rich Fitzwell Rich Fitzwell on Jul 01, 2021

    A discarded mask on the ground is sheeple droppings.

    • Lou_BC Lou_BC on Jul 01, 2021

      And a deniers ARDS corpse in the morgue is what? Natural selection aka Darwinism?

  • ToolGuy ToolGuy on Jul 04, 2021

    The UAW, Ford, General Motors and Stellantis in 2021 represent the absolute pinnacle of human achievement (in all of human history) with regard to design, manufacturing, work practices, health and safety [including environmental safety]. You cannot go wrong by following their example.

    • Lou_BC Lou_BC on Jul 05, 2021

      @ToolGuy - more like nadir. Thanks for the links.

  • MaintenanceCosts "But your author does wonder what the maintenance routine is going to be like on an Italian-German supercar that plays host to a high-revving engine, battery pack, and several electric motors."Probably not much different from the maintenance routine of any other Italian-German supercar with a high-revving engine.
  • 28-Cars-Later "The unions" need to not be the UAW and maybe there's a shot. Maybe.
  • 2manyvettes I had a Cougar of similar vintage that I bought from my late mother in law. It did not suffer the issues mentioned in this article, but being a Minnesota car it did have some weird issues, like a rusted brake line.(!) I do not remember the mileage of the vehicle, but it left my driveway when the transmission started making unwelcome noises. I traded it for a much newer Ford Fusion that served my daughter well until she finished college.
  • TheEndlessEnigma Couple of questions: 1) who will be the service partner for these when Rivian goes Tits Up? 2) What happens with software/operating system support when Rivia goes Tits Up? 3) What happens to the lease when Rivian goes Tits up?
  • Richard I loved these cars, I was blessed to own three. My first a red beauty 86. My second was an 87, 2+2, with digital everything. My third an 87, it had been ridden pretty hard when I got it but it served me well for several years. The first two I loved so much. Unfortunately they had fuel injection issue causing them to basically burst into flames. My son was with me at 10 years old when first one went up. I'm holding no grudges. Nissan gave me 1600$ for first one after jumping thru hoops for 3 years. I didn't bother trying with the second. Just wondering if anyone else had similar experience. I still love those cars.