UAW says it pressed supplier American Axle to shut down near Detroit

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DETROIT — American Axle and Manufacturing halted operations on Monday after days of being pressured by employees and the UAW.

In an update to members on Tuesday night, UAW President Rory Gamble said the union “succeeded in finally getting American Axle and Manufacturing to close the Fraser, MI, facility after a worker tested positive at that location.

“I’m sorry to say there was a great deal of resistance from the company.”

At the end of last week, an employee’s COVID-19 test came back positive, causing disruption and panic among workers. American Axle expected employees to continue working and report to their shifts. It wasn’t until Monday evening that the plant shut down.

Trent DeSenglau, the UAW’s local plant chairman at American Axle in Fraser, played a key role in fighting for the plant to close, the UAW said.

“We just want to be home to make sure our families are safe, to make sure we’re not infecting other people,” he told the Detroit Free Press. “They’re making us come to work and putting us in a position where we don’t know if we’re safe.”

Gamble recognized DeSenglau’s efforts in the statement to members.

American Axle said in a statement: “By working together to stay informed and educated, we will stay ahead of this situation and make the right and best decisions to ensure the safety of our families, friends, customers and supplier partners.”

American Axle is a longtime manufacturer of driveline and drivetrain components headquartered in Detroit.

Other auto suppliers are facing similar conflicts as most auto assembly plants in North America idle their production to help stop the spread of the virus.

For example, the Faurecia parts plant in Saline, Mich., has laid off employees but is keeping many on the line to continue production. The UAW is pressuring Faurecia to close to ensure the safety and health of employees and to sanitize the plant, according to the local Saline Post. A Faurecia spokeswoman could not be reached for comment. 

“The UAW is doing everything in our power to keep everyone safe and move forward in the best possible way to stem the spread of this terrible virus,” Gamble’s statement said.

“I must ask again that we all try to remain calm, we all support one another and please, follow the stay-at-home precautions in your area to the extent that you are able. Please adhere to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations on protecting yourself and others from the virus.”

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