CLOSE

Autoplay

Show Thumbnails

Show Captions

In the predawn darkness along Mound Road north of Detroit on Monday, the autoworkers hurried toward the unknown.

The first day back to work in two months since the coronavirus pandemic shut down manufacturing came with its share of nervousness for many of those heading inside Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ Warren Truck Assembly before 5 a.m. 

Of those who paused long enough to speak to a Free Press reporter only one said he was truly comfortable coming back.

The rest said it was too soon or talked about the loss of life from COVID-19. At this plant alone, where the popular, older version of the Ram 1500 pickup is built, the toll has been tragic, with four dead, although it’s not known where any of them contracted the virus.

Jay Peebles of Roseville, who installs seats, worried about his 4-month-old daughter, Jasmine.

“I just think I should be home with my family, my wife, with my child. I don’t think building a truck is going to save lives right now, you know what I mean? But we’ve got to make money so …” Peebles said.

“(My wife) don’t like that I’m back here already this soon, when we’ve lost people at this exact plant. Multiple people. I knew a few of them,” he said, noting that he has lost people in his family, too, grandparents. 

FCA, Ford and General Motors were all bringing workers back Monday, tens of thousands of them. At Warren Truck, 1,280 workers were scheduled to report this week on one shift. Second shifts will come in a few weeks.

Surprising turnout

UAW spokesman Brian Rothenberg said UAW members showed up to work across the country in big numbers with a low absentee rate. In fact, some plants have higher numbers than expected because automakers called in more workers in anticipation of potential issues related to aggressive screening at the factory entrances.

Automakers have procedures in place in an effort to try to keep people who might be sick out of the plants. FCA,…