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On first day back to work at Ford plant, employee tests COVID-19 positive

By Sean Lewis, WGN TV

There are safety concerns as a case of COVID-19 hits the newly reopened Ford assembly plant.

The sprawling South Side facility had been shut down for weeks amid the pandemic. Just a day after the Ford assembly plant on South Torrence Avenue went back online, the company sent a video out, showing temperature checks, PPE for workers and social distancing reminders. However, at least one employee who came back is now known to be COVID positive.

One Ford employee spoke to WGN but asked us protect their identity because they are worried for their job and their health. They said there is an outbreak going on and said Ford is hiding it.

“I feel like I’m going to be sick when I go to work. They don’t care,” the employee said. “They don’t care nothing about us but our profits. If we don’t go to work, they’re just going to fire us and hire new people.”

Ford confirms just one employee who came back Monday has COVID-19 and was sent home, citing their protocol.

They sent the following statement to WGN:

“We notified people known to have been in close contact with the infected individual, while maintaining confidentiality, and asked them to self-quarantine for 14 days. We are also cleaning and disinfecting the work area, equipment, team area and the path that the team member took.”

However, in a memo sent to workers in March, they mentioned a different protocol saying, “If someone that works at one of our plants tests positive for COVID-19, we will close the building in which that person works for 24 hours to be deep-cleaned and disinfected consistent with CDC guidelines.”

That, it seems, is no longer the case. In a robocall sent to workers late Tuesday afternoon, has the plant back open just hours after that infected worker went home.

In response to this change, Ford said their “safety protocols continue to evolve as we learn more about COVID-19.”

On the UAW Local 551 Facebook page, some have called into question the protocols including a survey employees have to fill out saying in part, “The way this was implemented only incentivizes people to lie on that survey.”

The employee who spoke to WGN said while face masks are being used, many are not using face shields and are not, sometimes cannot because of their work, maintain social distancing.

“We’re asking the mayor and we’re asking the governor to help us,” they said. “It’s definitely profits over people. They’re trying, Ford’s doing whatever they can to protect their bonuses that come every March. Forget that profit sharing. I want to live.”

The governor’s office said, “The administration is working with industry to ensure the proper health protocols are in place and the Governor has urged employees who feel unsafe to report it the Attorney General’s office.”

Ford did not make clear how many other employees came into contact with their infected co-worker and how many are now having to self-quarantine because of it.

This article originally appeared in WGN TV.

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