More than 500 workers at the Corvette Assembly plant in Bowling Green are headed back to work after being furloughed for two months.
The General Motors factory is taking precautions to contain the spread of COVID-19, which shuttered the plant in March.
Before workers can get onto the factory floor, they’ll have to answer a series of questions to screen for coronavirus symptoms. They’ll also have their temperature taken, and be required to wear a mask and safety goggles. However, social distancing in a production setting is impossible, according to Jack Bowers, president of United Autoworkers Local 2164.
“I’m worried about the safety of our workers, but we do have to produce a product," Bowers said.
About 550 of the plant’s workforce of 1,200 returned to work first shift only on Tuesday. Since many of the plant’s suppliers have been shuttered due to the coronavirus, the plant doesn’t have enough parts for two shifts.
Which employees get to return first is based on seniority. A second shift is tentatively set to start July 6.
The shutdown came shortly after production began on the new mid-engine Corvette. The next generation car created much hype, and won the North American Car of the Year award for its design and performance.
Jason Watson, shop chairman for UAW Local 2164, said due to an overwhelming demand for the 2020 Stingray, Chevrolet decided to stop taking orders from dealerships and customers in March.
"I believe this next model year is going to be just as busy, if not busier, because quite honestly, there may be numerous customers who can't get a 2020 because of availability," Watson told WKU Public Radio. "I think we have a bright future at Bowling Green."
While the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in high unemployment, Watson says the Corvette doesn't take as hard a hit as other vehicles in an economic downturn.
The industry publication Auto Evolution reports production of the 2020 Corvette will end in October and Chevrolet has begun taking orders for the 2021 model, which is scheduled to begin rolling off the assembly line in early November. The local UAW couldn't confirm that timeline when reached on Tuesday.