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Cries for help from Electric Boat's COVID-19 horror show

I've heard from many Electric Boat employees and their families since the publication of a column criticizing the shipyard for not doing enough to protect workers from spreading the coronavirus.

By remaining open, the shipyard is preserving revenue incentives linked to meeting production deadlines in its contracts with the government.

On Thursday, the company said the number of employees who have COVID-19 has grown to 19, more than three times the number from the Friday before.

Most who wrote thanked me for giving voice to their anxiety. They can stay home without pay but would not be eligible for unemployment.

Here are some quotes from those emails:

• "At EB we are all just a number ... (although) their treatment of us is not surprising, it doesn't make it any less awful to endure. (I am) a member of the (Marine Draftsmen's Association) and almost every single one of us could work from home, but the company will not provide the laptops. In the end it seems (the union) is just as guilty as the company as they are not doing their job to protect us from an uncaring corporation. We've been furious about all this for a while ... The virus continues to spread through the company."

• "Something else (worth) looking into may be the COVID-19 PPE (or lack thereof.) Employees have been told that if they want to wear masks they must bring their own and even suggested that they make their own masks 'in their leisure.' Oh, and social distancing? It is 100 percent not enforced."

•  "They are only cleaning high traffic areas but not common areas or locker rooms. How are people supposed to be six feet apart yet work in an enclosed area where they can be 20 feet away and breathe the same air."

• "Please help get this shut down. My son works there and does not want to go back until there is a treatment and feels safe. However he will continue to go, take a chance of infecting five others in his house."

• "I am an employee at EB. I have been forced into borrowing the two weeks paid time off (which the company says must be paid back within a year) because my wife and children are high risk. I work in the Groton side and what you have heard about the lame attempts at cleaning is 100 percent correct ...  As someone with no way to fight back or make a difference, it really helps to see someone outside the company helping us peons."

• "We the people at EB are losing hope and are scared to go to work. They've done nothing to protect us. Articles like yours are giving us hope. Please don't stop. Thank you thank you thank you."

• "(There are) horrendous conditions we EB employees have to go through on a daily basis. There are no policies in effect on what to do if you think a co-worker is sick. When I was coming into work yesterday a third shift employee was coughing up a lung and didn't even cover his face. There are a lot of employees who don't believe it to be as bad as the 'fake news' is making it out to be. Check out the EB forums. No one is practicing social distancing at all. When management does have masks and gloves they are slow to pass them out and not every employee gets them."

• "This major health issue should be of concern to every resident of southeastern Connecticut. I work in an office that is a closed area due to the confidential material I work with. It is pretty much impossible to social distance, even with EB implementing two shifts. There are still too many people on the floor to keep six-foot distance from each other. They need to close down and they need to close down NOW. People have to pass by each other in narrow hallways. People still queue up less than six feet apart to clock out. You still have to stand closer than six feet in the coffee mess, at the copier, and so on.  I am in a four-person cubicle, and we are down to two people, but I am still three feet from my co-worker! I am disgusted, afraid and tired of waiting for EB to do the right thing and shut down. Profits over people _ that should be their new tagline."

• "I am an employee at EB whose job is completely capable of being done remotely, but the company only has enough laptops for a small fraction to actually do this, despite what they tell the media. To say EB has dropped the ball on its handling of the pandemic is the understatement of the century."

• "My husband is employed at Electric Boat and we are sooo pissed."

• "Many of the rooms are accessed with a cipher lock, with the security code pressed combination via pressing buttons. Door is accessed by multiple people many many times a day. Everybody puts in a shop-order for each job by swiping their badge and the punching of a code with their fingers. I have NEVER seen this machine cleaned."

One reader sent me a YouTube link to an elaborately produced video, with managers holding up thank you signs to show employees. Many of those managers are obviously at home, communicating remotely to those left inside what many now call the EB petri dish.

"It's a joke," the EB worker said about the video thank yous sent from managers.

I would have to agree. Thank you, they seem to be saying to the worker hostages, for risking you and your family's health for the sake of bigger corporate profits.

This is the opinion of David Collins.


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