An autoworker at Stellantis' Toledo, Ohio, Jeep plant works on an electric version of the Wrangler. The UAW and automakers will no longer require workers to wear facemasks to protect against COVID-19.

UAW Plants to Drop Facemask Requirements

June 21, 2022
The autoworkers union was one of the most aggressive voices for strict policies to guard workers against the coronavirus in 2020.

Autoworkers at Ford, General Motors and Stellantis plants will no longer have to wear masks at work, though a task force with automaker and union representatives still recommends the personal protective gear.

“While masks will be optional, they will still be available for those who choose to wear one based on personal preference,” the UAW’s COVID-19 Joint Task Force announced Tuesday. “The CDC recommends that those who are immunocompromised or high risk for severe disease wear a mask or respirator that provides greater protection.”

The UAW aggressively pushed for strong responses to the initial COVID-19 outbreaks in early 2020. In mid-March of that year, well before federal and state lockdown orders shuttered most of the U.S. economy, the autoworkers’ union pressured Detroit’s OEMs to cease production.

During those early days, several autoworkers died from COVID-19 infections and Southeast Michigan was an early hotspot for viral transmission.

Many workplaces have already dropped masking requirements as COVID-19 fatality numbers have fallen, but the UAW had maintained the PPE mandates. The union’s policy change reflects a general easing of protective orders including no longer requiring people flying to the U.S. from overseas to show negative COVID-19 test results.

CDC officials warn that the disease is still spreading in much of the U.S., but the current Omicron-variant outbreaks have not carried large increases in hospitalizations or deaths as earlier outbreaks did. 

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