DETROIT -- Before sunrise on Monday, tens of thousands of autoworkers headed back to work at factories in Detroit, Chicago, Toledo, Louisville and Kansas City as the Detroit Three started building vehicles again.
Shuttered since late March because of the coronavirus, with hourly and salaried workers sheltering at home, cash-starved companies are eager to safely get the lines running. Now the companies are restarting plants throughout North America.
"Some people are looking forward to coming back and some people are concerned. It's a balance between the two," said Bernie Ricke, president of UAW Local 600, which represents workers at the Ford Rouge complex.
"I think the companies are doing everything they can to protect people's health and safety," he said Sunday, noting that workers at Dearborn Truck will work two 10-hour shifts when they usually work three shifts building the popular Ford F-150 pickup.
Ford, General Motors and Fiat Chrysler have implemented new safety protocols that include thermal scanning for high temperatures, daily employee surveys that screen for symptoms, face masks.
While the companies say they plan to stagger plant activity, the long list of manufacturing factories is staggering.
GM spokesman Jim Cain said many of the plants are starting with one shift, and in total about 12,000 hourly and salaried people will be on the job across the plants starting Tuesday.
Previous reports listed GM's Arlington plant as starting this week, but GM said it will now start later in the month. Cain said the restart at Arlington was pushed back based on timing of expected supplier deliveries but, "it will follow quickly."
Schedules for GM plants in Silao and San Luis Petosi in Mexico are pending, he said.
Also opening later this month, the week of May 25, GM's Bowling Green plant in Kentucky, which builds the Corvette and Corvette engines, and Lansing Grand River Plant, which builds the Camaro and Cadillac.