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Auto Workers: Forget the Risks, We're Doing This

Hundreds of workers from Ford, GM, and other companies are making medical gear
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 25, 2020 1:00 PM CDT

(Newser) – Cindy Parkhurst could have stayed home collecting most of her pay while the Ford plant where she normally works remains closed due to coronavirus fears. Instead, she along with hundreds of workers at Ford, General Motors, Toyota, and other companies has gone back to work to make face shields, surgical masks, and ventilators in a wartime-like effort to stem shortages of protective gear and equipment, the AP reports. "I didn't give it a second thought," said Parkhurst, 55, a tow motor driver who is now helping Ford and its partner 3M manufacture and ship respirators. All over the country, blue-collar and salaried workers have raised their hands to make medical equipment, soap, and hand sanitizer as companies repurpose factories to help medical staff treating patients with the highly contagious virus.

At Ford, over 800 people returned to work at four Detroit-area sites. General Motors, which President Trump had alternately criticized and praised for its work, has about 400 at a now-closed transmission plant in suburban Detroit and an electronics factory in Kokomo, Indiana, working on shields and ventilators. About 60 Toyota workers, both salaried and blue-collar, are making protective equipment in Kentucky, Texas, Michigan, and Alabama. Those workers making medical gear will get their full base pay, but that's not what's motivating them to keep coming to the factories. Many simply want to help. "Instead of being home and not helpful, I thought I'd be productive here," says Jody Barrowman, who is making face masks at a repurposed former GM factory near Detroit.

(Read more coronavirus stories.)

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