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Workers at South Side Illinois Motor Vehicle Plant say COVID-19 is rampant and state has played it down

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CHICAGO (UKTN) – Dozens of workers at an Illinois Secretary of State’s motor vehicle facility say the state puts them at risk – daily.

They told UKTN 2’s Jermont Terry that COVID-19 is rampant in the South Side facility and that the state is playing it down.

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And while there is so much talk about reopening and moving into the Endgame, workers at the Chicago South facility – at 9901 S. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the Rosemoor neighborhood – say that the state still hasn’t figured out how best to keep them safe.

Terry has spoken to half a dozen workers over the past two days – far too apprehensive to speak on camera. Employees work at the facility, officially known as the Charles Chew State of Illinois Motor Vehicle Facility, but they wonder why the doors are even open there.

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“We’re not at all unhappy,” said one employee. “We just want the state to take care of its employees.”

“Because again, COVID is not over,” said another. “Vaccination takes some time to take effect.”

The employees withheld their identities, but spoke out after receiving a letter dated May 1. This alerts them that someone has tested positive for COVID-19 and that they may have been exposed.

“It’s a bit of a concern – not just for me, but for everyone – because we have families to come home to,” said the first employee.

This was the second notice in less than three weeks that the Secretary of State sent to employees about a positive case and the risk of exposure. But workers told UKTN 2 there was no recommendation or warrant to get tested.

And if they get a COVID test, they say they have to waste sick time while waiting for the results.

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“It’s our own time,” said the first employee. “We have to use the sick time; PTO, and that’s not fair to us. It’s not like we walk outside and say, ‘Let’s let someone cough on me so I can have COVID so I can take some time out.’ “

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Terry spoke to half a dozen staff at the facility for two days.

“We speak because we have to hear it,” said the second employee.

Many fear reprisals or dismissal. But they all said requiring employees to use their personal time for quarantine or waiting for results added to the risk to workplace health.

“They don’t want to say anything because they have to use their time,” said the second employee, “and not saying anything puts the rest of us at risk.”

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They believe the state will not request testing despite the possible exposure, as there are concerns that the facility will be shut down.

“We just want it to be safe for all of us – at point blank range,” said the first employee. “That’s all we want.”

The secretary of state’s office said that since federal sick days for COVID-19 expired at the end of 2020, the only option is for workers not to be paid or to use their personal days.

It is estimated that 100 people work in the establishment.

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The state said there had only been two cases of the coronavirus in the past three weeks, but workers said they received these letters on cases at least once a month.


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