(WKBN) – Two employees at the Arconic Niles plant have tested positive for COVID-19 and many others have been quarantined, but both the company’s communications manager and union representative say Arconic is working to get the situation under control.
“We are improving,” said Arconic communications manager Cary Dell. “We are continuing to implement new procedures aligned with the CDC and the Ohio Department of Health as they advise us on preventing the spread of COVID-19.”
“Initially there was a lot of concern because it was a sloppy roll out,” said United Steelworkers International staff representative Jose Arroyo.
Arroyo represents 520 employees at Arconic.
“I will say over the last week or so this company has rallied to get their protocols in place. They’ve been working with the international union, they’ve been working with the local unions. As a matter of fact, the Trumbull County Board of Health was actually in there yesterday and gave them a clean bill as far as how they were handling things. They said they were actually doing things better than most employers,” Arroyo said.
Arroyo said people have been brought into Arconic to help sanitize. He also said certain departments had been shut down and thoroughly cleaned before they were reopened.
On March 19, WKBN reported that an Arconic employee had died from flu-like symptoms after being found unconscious in the locker room. The Trumbull County coroner has not yet determined a cause of death.
Acronic makes titanium for the defense industry and is considered to be an essential employer.
“I think what confused a lot of people is these are scary times,” Arroyo said. “There’s no mandate for these places to close. There is no real playbook. So you’re seeing companies and local unions scrambling to make sure we get the right things done.”
Arroyo represents 28 unions primarily in Mahoning, Trumbull and Cuyahoga counties.
“We’re in contact with all of them on a daily basis regarding various action plans. We’re collecting data on what different companies are doing to handle this and what the procedures are,” Arroyo said.
He says he represents plants that have already shut down, but not all for the same reasons.
“There are two boats here,” Arroyo said. “The places that are shutting down due to sanitation and COVID-19 concerns, but there are also places that are being hurt economically as this market continues to slow down.”