Mack Trucks workers demand safety precautions as COVID-19 rises
Dear colleagues of Mack Trucks,
COVID-19 is resurfacing in countries around the world as governments fail to take the necessary public health measures to combat it. This includes the United States of America, where President Joe Biden has falsely stated that the best defense against variants is to get the shot. Although vaccination is important, vaccination alone cannot stop the spread of the virus. It must be combined with public health measures that include the closure of non-essential work areas. This includes not reopening schools until the virus is eradicated.
Mack Trucks and the United Auto Workers union recently announced that the mask’s mandate is back in effect. However, they did not distribute masks. Instead, they just told us to wear masks at work.
No one is telling the truth about the current situation. Mack knows the virus could potentially kill us. However, their main concern is not the spread of the virus, but to profit from our work. The mask’s “warrant” is just something on paper for Mack, legally covering them in case one of us dies. This is something they can point out and say that precautions were in place in case fatalities did occur. We know the precautions were never in place. We know it’s not our fault that we catch the virus. The fault lies with Mack and the UAW, for allowing Mack to neglect our security.
At Macungie, our caseload has increased and the UAW is just lining up with the actions the company claims to be taking. To ensure our safety, other measures must be put in place immediately and we must be the ones implementing them. Mack Trucks’ Lehigh Valley operations boss Gunnar Brunius plans to increase production to 60 trucks per shift soon. This increase is not possible while maintaining the minimum separation of six feet required to work safely. We’re already forced to violate the six-foot distance requirement during our shifts now. With the hiring of more workers, the distancing will be even more difficult.
We all need to be at least six feet apart, and that needs to be factored into line speed and numbers. If an industrial engineer hasn’t properly adjusted our workforce to allow a safe working distance between each worker, that’s a business problem, not ours. We have to make sure that we maintain a safe distance from each other and the line will have to run at the speed necessary to achieve this. If we cannot do our job safely, we have to wait until our area is cleared so that we can do it safely.
The relaxed guidelines in the past have contributed to the high number of COVID-19 cases at the facility. With the speed of the line and the heat with which we have struggled, it is no surprise that many find it impossible to wear their masks in the facility. If we cannot wear the masks, we cannot work safely.
Conditions must be created to support mask wearing in the workplace. This includes air conditioning and ventilation throughout the building. If management and the UAW can sit in their desks with air and ventilation, shop workers should have the same. If Mack cannot provide what workers need to work six feet apart, be cooled to levels deemed appropriate by the workers, and provide a constant supply of the type of mask that is best for each job. worker, then production must stop until it is safe to resume.
If you’re new to the building, be aware that Mack has decreased the number of time clock in the past and naturally the UAW hasn’t done anything to stop this. Mack also reduced the number of tables in the break areas. There must be a return to lost parking meters in the past and a return to individual break zones granted over time, including outdoors. If Mack-Volvo believes “We are security” then they must meet these demands.
Since we know Mack and the UAW will not enforce these requirements, it’s up to us to do so. The Mack Workers’ Grassroots Committee (MWRFC) exists at LVO to protect the working conditions of our colleagues. This includes their safety at work.
Mack and the UAW operate without your safety in mind, and you have to stress it. If we can’t work safely and COVID-19 is in the facility, why are we here? Mack-Volvo cares only about protecting the money they make from your work. It’s up to us to protect ourselves.
Our situation is part of a much larger attack on workers everywhere. Reopening schools in the fall will put our children and their teachers at risk. We should not send children and teachers to a dangerous situation. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, more than 180,000 children tested positive for COVID-19 in the United States in mid-August as school districts across the country opened for the year. It makes doubly foolish to risk infecting children because the long-term effects of the disease are not fully known.
With children acting as a vector for the spread of the virus, reopening schools will inevitably lead to increased infections and deaths, loss of loved ones and lifelong consequences for many, including brain and organ damage. We must unite to defend our working class brothers and sisters in education, because our struggles are fundamentally linked to each other. They also have unions, and their unions have failed to protect them from the virus. This is also the case with the UAW. The power to stop the virus can only come from working class unity and action in the form of a political general strike to demand the eradication of COVID-19!
We formed the Mack Trucks MTWRFC workers ‘grassroots committee in July following the UAW’s betrayal of the Volvo Trucks workers’ strike in Dublin, Virginia. Since this announcement, several of our co-workers have contacted us and expressed their interest in getting involved in our cause.
We are inspired by NRV workers who dared to speak out against the corporate Volvo machine, only to be sold by their union bargaining committee and UAW International. In forming this committee, we are trying to be proactive to ensure that a repeat of the NRV does not happen here in two years. We seek to highlight and expose the issues that exist here at LVO and LVLC at Macungie.
These changes need to happen in order for us to work safely at Mack Trucks:
- We must receive a risk premium in the form of double time if we are to work in a dangerous and potentially lethal environment.
- Personal protective equipment will be distributed by Mack with the option of N-95 masks.
- 10 minutes break per hour to cool off from the heat of wearing masks.
- Air conditioning and ventilation to help maintain a healthy workspace.
- Staffing time allowances have been adjusted so that we can maintain a working distance of six feet from each other. Mack should have no problem with this as they told us to keep six feet away from the start of the pandemic. If you are within six feet of another worker, it is up to you to stop working until it is safe to do your job. Inform your supervisor that this is the reason. If your supervisor encourages you to work within six feet of someone else, he’s going against Mack’s self-imposed guidelines and putting you in danger. You cannot work if it is dangerous.
- The number of parking meters should be tripled to help maintain safe distances for workers who clock in between shifts. The anticipated six-minute punch-out must be reinstated for the same reason. It is dangerous to our health and only helps the spread of the coronavirus around the few hours we currently have.
- A return to break areas that were removed before and during the pandemic, including outdoor break areas.
Text to join: (484) -466-8841