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This evening, UAW leaders are meeting with the heads of the Big Three automakers to decide whether to keep America’s auto plants running.

The automakers have urged the union to stay on the job, promising to take extreme measures to protect them from the COVID-19 virus. Those steps include staggered shifts to minimize worker contact and for complete scrubbings of the plants between shifts.

We hope these steps and others the companies plan are enough to reassure autoworkers and keep the plants open.

Protecting the workers is critical, but if there are ways to keep them safe while keeping the economy afloat at this critical moment, then that is the best option.

America is teetering on recession. If the manufacturing industry goes down, the rest of the economy is at risk of going with it.

More: UAW, Detroit Three launch COVID-19 task force

More: Rebuffed on 2-week plant shutdown, UAW presses for safety

The workers who are remaining in the plants are doing a great service to their country. Without them there, this economic slide risks becoming a free fall. They deserve our gratitude.

The talks tonight hopefully will end in an agreement that protects the workers and also keeps this vital piece of the economy running. 

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