Chicago Ford assembly plant employees return to work with new COVID-19 safety measures in place; 'I think they're rushing it'

CHICAGO (WLS) -- When employees return to work at the Ford Assembly plant next week, signs will inform them of the new safety measures in place.

Ford provided a video featuring some of the steps the company has taken inside the Chicago plant, where two of the three shifts will return on Monday. According to the "Manufacturing Return to Work Playbook" on its website, Ford plans to enforce social distancing and cleanliness throughout the plant. Nevertheless, several employees tell ABC 7 Chicago they believe the company is calling them back too soon.

"Going back to work, I think they're rushing it. And for what? We are not an essential company. We do not make essential products," forklift operator Gabriela Garcia said.

Nick Duhart said he's concerned social distancing will be difficult to enforce on the assembly line, and he doesn't want to bring the virus home.

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"I just hope I don't get COVID-19 doing my job," Duhart said. "I got children."

A number of employees say they believe they should not be back at work before the governor's stay-at-home order is lifted. The South Side plant assembles Ford Explorer and Police Interceptor Utility vehicles.

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The company says COVID-19 safety measures for employees include a daily health self-certification, such as no-touch temperature scans upon entry into the plant. They will also provide masks and safety shields for each worker, and will allow limited employee interaction.

Ford leadership says "We've developed these safety protocols in coordination with our union partners, especially the UAW, and we all know it will take time to adjust to them. We are in this together and plan to return to our normal operating patterns as soon as we are confident the system is ready to support."

Dale Santos was part of a small group of employees who toured the plant earlier this week.

"They've done a lot; I'm not saying they haven't, but I don't think they've done enough," Santos said. "They haven't given us a chance to voice our concerns directly."

Ford says they worked closely with union leaders on safety measures, and in a letter to employees, the union urges workers to follow those precautions closely.
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