Chicago Coronavirus: South Side Ford plant reopens with sanitation, social distancing measures in place

Liz Nagy Image
Tuesday, May 19, 2020
South Side Ford plant reopens with COVID-19 precautions in place
EMBED <>More Videos

Thousands of United Auto Workers employees returned to the Ford factory on Chicago's South Side for the first time in two months Monday.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Thousands of United Auto Workers employees returned to the Ford factory on Chicago's South Side for the first time in two months Monday.

While the doors have been closed and employees not collecting paychecks, the UAW union has been working with Ford to establish safety measures for the 4,500 workers at the plant.

RELATED: Latest news and updates on Illinois coronavirus cases, Chicago area impact

Employees had to fill out a survey before even returning to work, pass temperature checks, and were given safety kits.

"Oh it was an experience," said Markeita Morris, Ford employee. "I was glad to see Ford is taking all the safety precautions for each and everybody."

Ford said in a statement, "Our employees received face masks and safety glasses when they arrived, as well as face shields for those who requested them. Employees were provided care kits at their workstations on the production line."

"Some people have been turned away because they have a fever, and other people were exposed to family members that were positive," said Chris, who represented the United Auto Workers Union.

On the other side of motorized turnstiles, the sprawling floor is now carefully marked with six foot spacing and sanitizing stations. The assembly lines are back up and running, but at a slower pace.

RELATED: Illinois Mask Requirements: New face mask order changes mandate amid coronavirus pandemic

"On the line, it's pretty hard on an assembly line to separate everybody six feet. The jobs, I don't think they have enough line space to do it," said Bruce Delbovo, Ford employee.

While some employees said they felt perfectly safe with all the new measures, other said the nature of an assembly line is just not conducive to following those regulations.

"I can't do my job effectively and follow safety guidelines," said one employee who asked not to be identified. "I can't wear a mask, be sweating, not see and try to work on a vehicle. In a way, you have to follow guidelines, but, no, I don't see, once it gets really hot in there, how they're going to keep this going."

READ IN FULL: Restore Illinois 5-phase reopening plan by Governor Pritzker splits IL into 4 regions

Other measures include adding extra fans and more plexiglass partitions to common eating areas.

With 4,500 employees on rotating shifts, they said the floor is already crowded.

"They go on lunch and they got 1,000 people on break all at one time," the employee said. "The bathrooms are segmented where only half the bathrooms are open. People can't use the bathroom. People can't get food."

Still, some employees said they were just glad to be back on the line, earning a paycheck amid a pandemic.

The union said they are working with Ford to make adjustments to the safety measures as the situation continues to change.