Workers Get Option to Wear Masks in Union Auto Plants

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Ford, General Motors and Stellantis announed Wednesday that masks will be optional at their plants across the U.S. The policy was made with the consent of the United Auto Workers union

Weld curtains hang across the door line at FCA’s Sterling Heights (Michigan) Assembly Plant to protect employees from the spread and transmission of COVID-19.

If a facility is in a high-risk county as identified by the Center for Disease Control, the Covid-19 Task Force, comprised of leaders from the UAW, Ford, GM and Stellantis, currently recommends mask wearing at facilities in CDC-designated high-risk counties. Masks will continue to make masks available at all facilities regardless of the CDC risk level.

“Each company will communicate when these changes go into effect at their locations,” the Covid-19 Task Force statement said.

The joint statement also noted, “While masks will be optional, they will still be available for those who choose to wear one based on personal preference. The CDC recommends that those who are immunocompromised or high risk for severe disease wear a mask or respirator that provides greater protection.”

The Task Force will continue to monitor data carefully and make any adjustments necessary to protect the health and safety of employees, the statement added.

Keeping workplaces safe remains one of the highest priorities of the Task Force members. One of the best ways to fight this virus is by getting vaccinated. The Task Force continues to encourage everyone to get vaccinated against COVID-19 and boosted when eligible, to protect family, friends and communities.

The automakers had reimposed the mandate in mid-May after a spike in a new variant of Covid-19 showed up around Detroit.

Masks part of auto factory life for two years

The automakers and the UAW have tinkered with the mask mandates since resuming production following sweeping shutdowns in March 2020 that followed the initial outbreak of Covid-19, and before masks became tangled up in the politics and the culture wars.

Masks will now be optional at UAW plants nationwide.

Masks were mandatory in auto factories before vaccines became available in January and February 2021. Since then, the mandates have gradually eased, even though the death toll from Covid-19 continued.

Masks were made optional in August 2021, but became mandatory again during the Omicron surge. They were loosened again in March 2022 before being reimposed in May in the face of the local surge around Detroit.

The mask mandate adopted by Detroit’s manufacturers have been adopted across the auto industry and in other businesses as well. But even though the Pandemic has claimed nearly one million lives in the past two years, masks have become increasingly controversial.

The automakers will continue to adhere to state and local masking requirements where applicable.

The CDC recommends that those who are immunocompromised or high risk for severe disease wear a mask or respirator that provides greater protection. People with symptoms, a positive test, or exposure to someone with COVID-19 also should wear a mask and not report to work.

The Task Force will continue to monitor data carefully and make any adjustments necessary to protect the health and safety of employees. 

The Task Force continues to encourage everyone to roll up their sleeves and get vaccinated against COVID-19, or boosted when eligible, to protect family, friends and communities. While the UAW and the companies will continue following other protocols that have kept workplaces safe, one of the best ways to fight this virus is by getting vaccinated, the UAW said

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