UAW pressing Big Three to close US factories for coronavirus concerns

The United Auto Workers Union is asking the Big Three to shut down all U.S. plants amid the coronavirus state of emergency.

"Put our members first," the UAW president Rory Gamble wrote to Ford Motor Company, General Motors and Fiat Chrysler in a post on Facebook

In the post, Gamble says he requested on Sunday a two-week shutdown of all operations to keep members healthy and safe.

“The companies, however, were not willing to implement this request,” Gamble wrote, and that the automakers asked for 48 hours to put together plans to safeguard workers in their facilities.

That 48-hour time frame ends Tuesday afternoon. 

Gamble says the companies and UAW officials are set to meet Tuesday at 6 p.m. to discuss the safety measures. But Gamble says if the union isn't satisfied it will take unspecified further action to protect members.

"I want to be very clear here: If the UAW leadership on the task force, myself and Vice Presidents Cindy Estrada, Terry Dittes and Gerald Kariem, are not satisfied that our members will be protected, we will take this conversation to the next level," Gamble wrote. 

RELATED: Big 3 plant workers worry for safety amid coronavirus pandemic

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer ordered all gatherings of more than 250 people be canceled to slow the spread of the coronavirus COVID-19. But thousands of factory workers are still reporting for their shifts for the Big Three and their suppliers.

FOX 2 heard from multiple people working in factories all voicing similar concerns that there's no way to stay six feet away from each other - the recommended social distancing during this crisis.

The UAW, GM, Ford Motor Co, and Fiat Chrysler have announced they are forming a coronavirus taskforce to keep workers safe. The Big Three is saying this is an unprecedented situation and they will move quickly - but workers say it's not quick enough.

Since the first cases of Covid-19 were confirmed in Michigan on March 10, Gov. Whitmer has declared a state emergency, closed all schools, prohibited gatherings of more than 250 people, restricted visits to hospitals and other facilities, closed public spaces such as theaters, bars, gyms and casinos, and limited restaurants to carry-out and delivery orders.  

Symptoms for coronavirus COVID-19 include fever, coughing, and shortness of breath. These, of course, are similar to the common cold and flu. 

Expect a common cold to start out with a sore or scratchy throat, cough, runny and/or stuffy nose. Flu symptoms are more intense and usually come on suddenly, and can include a high fever. 

Symptoms of COVID-19 may appear more slowly. They usually include fever, a dry cough and noticeable shortness of breath, according to the World Health Organization. A minority of cases develop pneumonia, and the disease is especially worrisome for the elderly and those with other medical problems such as high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes or heart conditions.

RELATED: Is it the flu, a cold or COVID-19? Different viruses present similar symptoms

Right now there's one big difference between flu and coronavirus: A vaccine exists to help prevent the flu and it's not too late to get it. It won't protect you from catching the coronavirus but may put you in a better position to fight it.

To protect yourself, wash your hands well and often, keep them away from your face, and avoid crowds and standing close to people.

And if you do find yourself showing any of these flu or coronavirus symptoms - don't go straight to your doctor's office. That just risks making more people sick, officials urge. Call ahead, and ask if you need to be seen and where.


FOX 2 is working to keep you up to date with coronavirus, with both local and national developments. Every weekday we're live at 1 p.m. with a special show reporting the latest news, prevention tips and treatment information. 

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