Automakers Close All North American Plants

Unemployment applications soar across the country
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 18, 2020 4:22 PM CDT
Automakers Close All North American Plants
General Motors employees work on a van assembly line at GM's Wentzville, Mo., plant.   (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson, File)

At the UAW's insistence, Ford, General Motors, and Fiat Chrysler decided Wednesday to close all of their plants in North America to combat the spread of the coronavirus. The plants won't restart before March 30 for Ford and GM, the Detroit Free Press reports. Fiat Chrysler has not release its plans. In the meantime, plants will be cleaned and disinfected, and the companies and union will work on developing best practices for containing the virus when production ramps back up. GM said employees will be paid, but those details aren't decided. A worker at the Flint Assembly plant said he's been worried about taking the virus home to his two young children. "Walking into work each day, I had that feeling that it's scary walking past somebody and handing parts to somebody," he said. US Rep. Debbie Dingell said the work stoppage will hit the economy hard. "However, we will never be able to rebound without the hardworking men and women of the auto industry," she said.

The number of unemployment applications being filed around the country shows why Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said unemployment during the pandemic could reach 20%. Nearly 20,000 people in Massachusetts filed for benefits Monday, per Slate, and 15,000 in New Jersey, a record for a single day. Ohio residents filed 48,000 claims in two days this week, compared with 1,825 over two days the week before. The restaurant industry could lose $225 billion over the next three months, said the National Restaurant Association, which wants federal aid for its members. On Wednesday alone, the prestigious restaurant company Union Square Hospitality Group laid off 2,000 employees, per the New York Times, "due to a near-complete elimination of revenue." Funds are being started across the nation to help laid-off employees, but restaurant owners said that with 15 million people working in an industry that's nearly shut down, they can't raise nearly enough. (More coronavirus stories.)

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