An employee at General Motors‘ Arlington Assembly plant tested positive for COVID-19 this month – causing concern among UAW leadership as the automaker prepares to return to full production capacity at the north Texas plant.
According to The Detroit Free Press, an employee in the chassis department at Arlington Assembly fell ill on June 5th and tested positive for COVID-19 a couple of days later. Employees returned to work at the Arlington plant in limited capacity on May 26th, but GM plans to bring all three shifts back online starting this week.
With the previous COVID-19 case at Arlington Assembly, along with the recent outbreak of COVID-19 cases in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, UAW Local 276 Shop Chairman Kenny Hines is expressing concern about bringing all three shifts back to work this week.
“I know we have a job to do — we’re considered essential workers in manufacturing — but if it’s not a nurse or something like that, I don’t believe anyone needs to be at work right now,” Hines told the Free Press in a recent interview. “We don’t have this virus under control as a nation.”
Hines told the Free Press that he would like for GM to idle the Arlington plant until the number of COVID-19 cases in the Dallas area begins to taper off. He also said he wants GM to scale back production of the new line of full-size SUVs that are built at the plant so less employees will be on-site on a given day.
Unfortunately for Hines and the Local 275 constituent he represents, Arlington Assembly is one of GM’s most important plants from both a strategy and business standpoint. The automaker is currently trying to roll out its new line of full-size SUVs, which include the 2021 Chevrolet Tahoe and Cadillac Escalade, and Arlington is the only place they are built. The SUVs are some of GM’s most popular and profit-heavy vehicles, making them extremely important to its current business and its long-term strategy.
GM says it plans to push forward with its plan for Arlington Assembly and will aggressively enforce its new COVID-19 safety protocols, as outlined in the 40-page handbook it sent to employees in May.
“We will definitely be implementing the same high level of strict safety procedures — including pre-screening, physical distancing and thermal scanning — at the entry points to the plant for third shift as we do for first and second shift (at Arlington to keep our employees safe,” a GM spokesperson told the Free Press.
The new line of full-size GM SUVs are expected to begin arriving at dealers later this summer.