Sumitomo Rubber USA, a tire making facility in Tonawanda, has received official permission from the state to remain open during the coronavirus pandemic.
Several employees of the factory have emailed News 4 with concerns about catching the virus, and anger over being asked to work in the nearly 1 million square-foot facility.
The company responded to inquiries Tuesday, saying that the local union and management are aligned with what the best actions are for the employees.
The company did obtain a designation from the state that it is essential under the Tire Manufacturing for Transportation Providers category, and can remain open.
“Thank you for seeking designation as an “essential business” pursuant to the New York State Executive Order 202.6 with respect to your business function of tire manufacturing for transportation providers,” an Empire State Development official wrote to a company official.
“Based on the information you have provided, that business function is already an essential business and does not require a further determination.”
A Sumitomo (Dunlop) spokesman said the company has allowed employees to work if they so choose based on the guidelines.
“They also have a choice of a layoff where we continue their benefits and we will bring them back when they are comfortable to return,” the company said in a statement.
“Of course we are also allowing people to work from home where we can. Our team members make their personal decision of what is best for them and their families.”
The Tonawanda plant employs about 1,300 workers on four shifts. The company said that is total headcount, and not indicative of who is still working. That number is still being reviewed as workers make their own choices.