Shipbuilders Fear Work Stoppage After NASSCO Employee Shows Symptoms

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An administration employee with BAE Systems has tested positive for coronavirus and a NASSCO shipyard worker is awaiting test results.

Their cases are causing a lot of concern among employees at two San Diego shipyards about the spread of threat of exposure, including some who say they feel trapped on the job.

NASSCO employees thousands of workers and just as many people visit the ship yard regularly. Employees build and maintain Navy ships, so there is no working from home because the job is considered essential to national security.

The numbers and nature of the work make safety guidelines like social distancing sometimes difficult to follow. Taking time off is just as difficult, employees say.

“It’s going to affect the national security severely if people pass and have to take extensive time off,” Boilermakers Union local 1998 President Robert Golinez said. Local 1998 represents around 2,800 workers.

Golinez found out Friday afternoon a painter in the shipyard showed symptoms of COVID-19. He was tested and sent home Tuesday and is waiting for his results.

“This person has a locker there, tools, so there is a lot of comingling there with other employees, so now there is panic,” Golinez said.

Forty other employees received letters and were told to quarantine at home, according to Golinez.

“People are continuously calling frantic. They're very upset,” he said.

Some in the union wish the shipyard would do what other companies are doing and temporarily shut down before the virus spreads through the rank and file.

“I don't feel well working day by day,” welder Glicerio Cortez said.

Union members fear continued 24-hour operations and working in groups, often times in close proximity to one another, could potentially lead to a shutdown.

“If you take a certain portion of that assembly line away then everything suffers and it might come to a point where you just can't build ships,” Golinez said.

NASSCO has been preparing for this day for weeks and have been closely adhering to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, according to a spokesperson.

The BAE Systems employee who tested positive worked in a small administrative office building, not in the shipyard but right next door. She went home two weeks ago and is recovering a company spokesperson said. No other coworkers she came in contact with are exhibiting symptoms.

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