Coronavirus-related parts shortage idles Ford plant in Chicago

Hammond operation can’t supply seats because a worker tested positive.

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Ford Explorers roll off the assembly line in Chicago

Ford Explorers roll off the assembly line in Chicago last summer. The plant has temporarily stopped working because of a parts shortage.

John Booz/for the Sun-Times

A parts shortage due to a coronavirus scare has forced a temporary shutdown at Ford’s assembly plant on the Southeast Side.

Production was suspended Tuesday night but was scheduled to resume with a late shift Wednesday, said Local 551 of the United Auto Workers on its Facebook page. A source close to the situation confirmed that was the plan as of early Wednesday.

The plant at 12600 S. Torrence Ave. was not getting deliveries from a Lear operation in Hammond, Indiana, that has been temporarily idled because a worker tested positive for the coronavirus. Lear spokesman Brian Corbett said one worker tested positive and another is presumed to have been exposed, so production was stopped for a deep cleaning. Corbett could not say when production would resume.

“They were on the same shift. They left last Thursday feeling fine, and then had flu-like symptoms over the weekend. They haven’t been back since,” Corbett said.

Lear provides seats for the Ford Explorer and Lincoln Aviator.

The temporary closure comes as the UAW has demanded all automakers cease production for at least two weeks because of the virus. UAW workers in Chicago and elsewhere have complained the companies are forcing workers to stay close to each other despite recommendations about social distancing. Workers also cite a lack of gloves, disinfectant and hand sanitizer.

On Local 551’s Facebook page, local Chairman Alan “Coby” Millender wrote, “We have heard your frustrations as it relates to your health & safety while working in a plant with 5k plus members, while State Leaders declare it unsafe to be in a gathering of more than 50 ppl! We have not been silent!! I (Coby) have been in constant communication with the VP of FORD John Savona & UAW President to share these concerns & frustrations!” A company spokeswoman declined to comment.

The Chicago Assembly Plant, the oldest in Ford’s system, employs about 5,200 hourly workers. Lear has 875 workers in Hammond.

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