The walkout began at 9 a.m. Tuesday and was set to last until the end of shifts, employees at the Cicero recycling plant said.
Reynaldo Rodriguez was 57-year-old when he died Monday morning. The father of six was diagnosed with COVID-19 a week ago.
His death has shattered his family, but also prompted a large walkout at the Cicero scrap metal company where he worked; news of his illness and death blindsided his coworkers.
"If it's here, we just want it to be sanitized, you know," said Alberto Madrigal, United Scrap Metal employee. "Make sure, get everybody tested. Make sure nobody has it. Because now we're seeing more and more people getting sick, and now we're starting to worry. Because we have families too."
Rodriguez was last at the recycling plant two weeks ago, and hospitalized a week later as his symptoms got worse.
"I remember leading him into the hospital," said his son Leo Rodriguez. "I remember him calling us and telling us he was infected with coronavirus."
"He made my mom call to let everybody know he was sick. He didn't want anybody to get sick no more," said his daughter Fatima Rodriguez.
Designated as an essential business, United Scrap Metal has remained open through the pandemic.
A spokesperson for the town of Cicero said inspectors were inside the plant as early as Monday, and didn't see any reason for concern. But employees say they have had to procure their own facemasks, and the bathrooms have been running out of soap with which to wash their hands.
United Scrap Metal denied their accusations, issuing a statement that said in part, "When the COVID-19 crisis hit, USM...immediately instituted safety protocols to protect our team members. In addition to enforcing guidance on distancing in the workplace, we invested significant resources in personal protection equipment and workplace sanitation efforts. We are especially proud of the fact that the few team members who did contract the virus ere treated in accordance with CDC guidelines, and have returned to work, suffering no income loss during this."