Grand Traverse Industries Slowly Rebuilds Workforce
Another 1.9 (M) million workers filed for unemployment in the U.S. last week, but that also represents the ninth straight weekly decline as more businesses reopen.
One of those businesses trying to get back to full strength is Grand Traverse Industries in Traverse City. They employ 200 workers with special needs and cognitive disabilities. As an essential manufacturer, they never shut down completely, but have been at minimal staffing levels.
By next week, G-T-I estimates they’ll still only be operating at 25 percent of their workforce.
President and CEO Steve Perdue says, “By definition a large part of our folks we work with are considered vulnerable. And health issues are a concern. They always have been with us. This situation made everybody a lot more on edge.”
Perdue says many employees have been concerned about coming back to work because of the Coronavirus – and in some cases – their own underlying health concerns. Others, who live in group home settings, are not allowed to come back to work until given the go-ahead by the State. “The folks that live in group homes or adult foster care homes, under health department guidelines and state guidelines, have not been cleared to leave their homes yet. So whether we want them back or not they can’t leave the home to come (to work). So it’s not a decision we’ve made. Everyone has to say they want to come back. Their parent, guardian, their home. They do have to feel comfortable.”
Amber Warren is one of the workers who just came back to the job recently. She says she was excited to return to work where she’s treated “as an equal”, and also because she gets to see her friends again. However, the new rules requiring face masks and 6-feet of Social/Physical Distancing means she still doesn’t get to talk to them very much. Perdue worries about not only his employees’ physical health, but their mental and emotional health. “It’s been very difficult for the folks, as it has been for the general population, to quarantine if you will for a long period of time.”