Chicago Assembly Plant, other Ford plants won’t reopen as planned on March 30

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Chicago Assembly Plant, other Ford plants won't reopened as planned on March 30

The Chicago Assembly Plant will not reopen on March 30.

Ford has been doing a deep cleaning of the Chicago Assembly Plant in Hegewisch, the Chicago Stamping Plant in Chicago Heights, and other automotive factories across the country to protect workers from the novel coronavirus, which by Tuesday had infected more than 400,000 and killed more than 18,500 people worldwide.

But now the Dearborn, Michigan-based automaker said it won’t be able to resume production as planned on March 30. The company is reassessing the timing of reopening its plants in North America.

“Ford’s top priority is the health and safety of our employees, dealers, customers, suppliers and other stakeholders. In light of various governments’ orders to stay and work from home, Ford is not planning to restart our plants in the U.S., Canada and Mexico on Monday, March 30 as originally hoped,” Kumar Galhotra, Ford’s North America president. “We are assessing various options and working with union leaders — including the United Auto Workers and Unifor — on the optimal timing for resuming vehicle production, keeping the well-being of our workforce top of mind.”

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The UAW cautioned workers that it was not known how Illinois’ “shelter in place” order would affect the Chicago Assembly Plant and told workers the Food Bank of Northwest Indiana potentially could offer assistance to their families.

The prolonged shutdown affects Northwest Indiana’s steel mills, which make much of the metal that goes into cars manufactured in North America. ArcelorMittal has already announced it is idling Blast Furnace #4 at ArcelorMittal Indiana Harbor in East Chicago. 

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The Ford shutdown also affects suppliers like Lear, which makes seats for the Ford Explorer and other vehicles at its Hammond factory, which was shut down for thorough cleaning after two workers there tested positive for coronavirus a week ago.

United Auto Workers Local 2335 is encouraging the 875 workers at the Lear plant just south of the South Shore Line East Chicago station to file for unemployment benefits online or on their mobile phone while the plant is shut down. Lear agreed to pay furloughed workers up to 40 hours of lost time, including the balance of the shift for those who were sent home after a partial workday after the coronavirus cases came to light. 

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The company will continue to provide health care benefits during the temporary layoffs, waiving the employee contribution. 

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