COVID-19

As carmakers restart factories, they look at steps to protect workers from COVID-19

Erika Beras May 18, 2020
Heard on: Marketplace Morning Report
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There are about 1,500 workers on a typical shift in a car factory, according to one industry analyst. Scott Olson/Getty Images
COVID-19

As carmakers restart factories, they look at steps to protect workers from COVID-19

Erika Beras May 18, 2020
There are about 1,500 workers on a typical shift in a car factory, according to one industry analyst. Scott Olson/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

The auto industry is starting to reopen, and as factories prepare for manufacturing to rev up again, companies say they are taking steps to try to keep workers safe from getting or spreading COVID-19.

About 30,000 parts go into manufacturing a vehicle, and there are about 1,500 workers on a typical shift, according to Kristin Dziczek with the Center for Automotive Research. So, as factories reopen, companies are going to have to take special precautions to keep employees apart.

Dziczek says that might mean changing the way two workers install seat belts. “They may redesign that job, so that somebody is installing the right seat belt anchor inside the car while someone else is doing something on the left side of the vehicle, on the outside,” she said.

Among the steps General Motors says it will take: providing additional protective gear and taking workers’ temperatures when they arrive. Arthur Wheaton, with the Worker Institute at Cornell, says that in order to administer all those screenings, companies need to make adjustments.

“You may have some staggered start and stop times, you may have people arriving at different intervals or different places and they may have more than one entrance,” Wheaton said.

If the companies want to keep manufacturing, they have to make these changes. Not manufacturing is costing the car companies billions.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

What’s the latest on the extra COVID-19 unemployment benefits?

As of now, those $600-a-week payments will stop at the end of July. For many, unemployment payments have been a lifeline, but one that is about to end, if nothing changes. The debate over whether or not to extend these benefits continues among lawmakers.

With a spike in the number of COVID-19 cases, are restaurants and bars shutting back down?

The latest jobs report shows that 4.8 million Americans went back to work in June. More than 30% of those job gains were from bars and restaurants. But those industries are in trouble again. For example, because of the steep rise in COVID-19 cases in Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, increased restrictions on restaurant capacities and closed bars. It’s created a logistical nightmare.

Which businesses got Paycheck Protection Program loans?

The numbers are in — well, at least in part. The federal government has released the names of companies that received loans of $150,000 or more through the Paycheck Protection Program.

Some of the companies people are surprised got loans include Kanye West’s fashion line, Yeezy, TGI Fridays and P.F. Chang’s. The companies you might not recognize, particularly some smaller businesses, were able to hire back staff or partially reopen thanks to the loans.

You can find answers to more questions on unemployment benefits and COVID-19 here.

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