A week after fatal accident killed crane operator Terry Garr, millwright dies from COVID-19 at Sterling stamping plant
A week after the death of crane operator Terry Garr at Stellantis’ Sterling stamping plant north of Detroit, the World Socialist Website Auto Workers Bulletin has learned that another worker, millwright Mark Bruce, has died of COVID-19. Several sources confirmed the death to a team of reporters during a shift change on Tuesday afternoon.
Sterling Stamping, the world’s largest auto stamping plant, saw its largest month-long increase in new infections in March, with 28 confirmed cases, compared to one for the entire month of February. This coincided with a record increase in cases across the state of Michigan, mainly due to the reopening of schools. the Auto Workers Newsletter had previously learned of severe cases at the plant that required hospitalization, but this is the first confirmed death at the plant.
While United Auto Workers Local 1264 has issued several death notices of auto workers and their families over the past two months, it has yet to report Bruce’s death. A worker said the UAW and the company were hiding information about COVID-19 outbreaks at the factory. He said he had known Mark Bruce for a long time. “Mark died of COVID last Friday and nothing is said about it. I only found out because another worker texted me.
“We receive notifications, sometimes seven times a week, on new cases of COVID. But they do not say where and which workers could have been exposed. “
Across the country, the UAW has helped management blackout infections and deaths at auto factories so as not to create “panic”. This prevents workers potentially exposed to the deadly virus from taking the necessary steps to protect themselves, their colleagues and their families, ensuring even more infections and deaths. In addition to covering infections, management penalizes workers who contract the virus or stay home with symptoms, thereby encouraging workers to report to work when they are sick.
Amid widespread anger over the death of Garr, crushed to death during a dice staging at the end of his shift last week, the UAW entered damage control on Tuesday, announcing one token, one minute of silence each shift to honor Garr on April 28. , Workers’ Memorial Day.
As workers want to know the truth about the circumstances leading up to his death, in a statement posted to the plant’s UAW Local 1264 Facebook page, LaShawn English, the local president, offered prayers and condolences, but no new information about the tragedy. English also did not describe measures taken by the UAW to investigate Garr’s death or encourage workers with information to come forward.
A preliminary report from the Michigan Occupational and Health Administration (MIOSHA) indicates that Garr was preparing a thimble, which was lifted by a crane. However, the die was not aligned with the locating pins.
While standing between the die and the press, the crane operator maneuvered the die onto the bolster pin. “Misalignment of the hoist with the center point of the die caused the die to tip back to the home position, causing the die to hit the crane operator,” the report said. Garr was taken to an area hospital, where he later died, according to Sterling Heights police.
A complete report from MIOSHA can take months to produce, depending on the Daily Macomb, who initially reported on the preliminary results.
A worker who contacted the World Socialist Website Auto Workers Bulletin Following the accident, the tragedy was caused by management pressure on installers to “ignore safety rather than production”. The fatal accident was due, writes the worker, due to “the haste and pressure from management.[ing] preparers should hurry and do the work that management has assigned towards the end of the shift. “
Although Bruce and Garr died of different causes, the common factor in the two deaths is management’s determination to keep production under the teeth of the pandemic. While Stellantis, like other major automakers, has been forced to halt much of its production due to a global chip shortage, the company is determined to retain Sterling Stamping Plant, which produces critical body panels for much of its assembly plants in North America. at all costs.
Across the street at the Sterling Heights Assembly Plant, which produces the company’s best-selling and highly profitable Dodge Ram 1500 pickup truck, production workers were forced over time for most of the year and the skilled trades work a brutal new 12-hour shift. daily work schedule, 7 days a week.
During a shift change on Tuesday, workers said Garr’s death occurring during the surge in COVID-19 infections underscored the fact that workers are taking their lives into their own hands every day they come to work. . “We are committed to the risk every day that we work here,” said one of them.
Another said: “I heard other workers say that when the factory manager first heard about the accident, he asked if Garr was wearing a hard hat when he was. killed, as if it would have saved him.
Other than that, “we didn’t hear anything. Maybe he was working alone when he shouldn’t have been. Maybe they were urging him to finish a job. All I know is that it is covered up and that we are not told anything.
The situation at Sterling Stamping underscores the urgent need for a four-week national production shutdown, a request raised in a statement from the Auto Workers Safety Committee Network. This is not only necessary to prevent new infections from spreading from plants to surrounding communities, but to end the reckless and dangerous regime of acceleration and overtime imposed by management with support from the UAW.
A seasoned worker at the Warren Truck Assembly Plant said: “This past March the workers stopped the line and it saved lives. We did it out of sheer fear. We were afraid for our lives and the lives of our families, and we wondered, “No one hears us? Six workers died at Warren Truck and the company and the union did nothing. UAWs are the spies and the muscles of the leadership. They are totally corrupt and in cahoots with the bosses.
“Workers killed in the factory and dying from COVID is like going back to the immigrant garment workers who were killed in the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire in 1911. It took a lot of tragedies before the things are changing. Today there are tragedies and no improvement. Now we have two entities against us, the UAW and the company.
We urge workers to support the call made by the Sterling Heights assembly safety committee on Sunday for a full and independent investigation into the circumstances surrounding Terry Garr’s death. For more information, contact [email protected]