Thousands of Kentucky Auto Workers Impacted by Plant Closures

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The closure of automobile plants across North America will impact thousands of workers in Kentucky.

Ford is temporarily suspending production at its manufacturing sites in North America until March 30 to clean its facilities and minimize risking the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

“We’re continuing to work closely with union leaders, especially the United Auto Workers, to find ways to help keep our workforce healthy and safe,” said Kumar Galhotra, Ford’s president of North America, in a statement. 

The auto giant will form a Coronavirus Task Force to focus on instituting new protocols and procedures like increasing social distancing among plant workers during work hours and at shift change.

Louisville is home to two Ford plants with roughly 13,000 employees. 

“U.S. employees that have more than one year of seniority will receive approximately 75 percent of their pay through a combination of unemployment and supplemental unemployment benefits. Employees with less than one year of seniority and temporary employees are eligible for unemployment. This is according to the 2019 UAW-Ford collective bargaining agreement,” said a spokeswoman for the company. 

Toyota is also closing plants nationwide.

“Toyota is extending the length of its production suspension at all of its automobile and components plants in North America, including Canada, Mexico, and the U.S. The manufacturing facilities will be closed from March 23 through April 3, resuming production on April 6, 2020,” the company said in a statement. 

“This action is being taken to protect the health and safety of our employees, key stakeholders, and communities, as well as a result of the significant market decline due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. To support our employees, Toyota will continue to offer full pay during this shutdown period for all production team members and variable workforce.”

Toyota’s Kentucky based plant is in Georgetown.

The auto manufacturer’s website lists a total of 24,793 jobs in Kentucky. This includes dealers and suppliers.

The Bowling Green-based General Motors plant will close until March 30, says Jack Bowers.

Bowers is president of the union that represents the more than 1,200 Kentucky GM workers. He says full-time GM workers will continue to be paid but is not certain about temporary employees.

He supports the closure.

“There’s too many unknowns. When you don’t know what you are fighting, you have to step back and find out. Life is too valuable,” said Bowers.